at Lime Rock Short Track
Every American Le Mans Series GT2 class event is a battle for supremacy. Some are fought with ballet precision, others like a bare-knuckled brawl. If tradition holds, Saturday's American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park (Conn.) will be the latter. After a seven week break in the schedule, Tafel Racing is ready for the battle to break out.
The Cumming, Ga.-based operation has meticulously readied the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC driven by Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) as well as the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC shared by Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) for the two hour and 45- minute Lime Rock feature. While battles have been fought, the war begins at Lime Rock. Tafel Racing has already proven itself this season with two victories but Lime Rock Park starts the Series into the heart of the schedule.
Tafel Racing performs a pit stop at Salt Lake City. Image by Rick Dole The beautiful tree-lined Lime Rock facility appears to be a picturesque park from the outside. However, its tight confines and quick lap times draw more parallels to a bull ring than a picnic spot. The Skip Barber- owned facility has undergone significant alterations this spring including a redesign of multiple turns and a widening of others. However, despite the recent renovations Lime Rock still stands as the shortest track that the Series will compete on this season. In fact, the track lost length but gained two turns with the changes. The eight-turn 2007 configuration measured at 1.54-miles while today's ten-turn design comes in at 1.51 miles long. The changes to the track and the freshly laid asphalt may very well add to the clashes on course. Lime Rock's narrow width puts a premium on passing while its shorter distance dictates that more overtaking by the fastest classes - Le Mans Prototype One (LMP1) and Two (LMP2) - will take place. When added to the intra-squad fights for class position, Lime Rock offers the high intensity and high emotions of a Saturday night short track race. At every track there is a tight-rope walk between fighting within the GT2 class and making way for the overall race battle, Lime Rock adds to the intense pressures of competition. While its prime competitors were in Europe racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tafel Racing was unwilling to draw away from the American Le Mans Series GT2 championship. Since finishing third in the most recent race at the Miller Motorsports Park in May, Tafel Racing has undergone and extensive testing effort to ready itself for the remainder of the season. Included were on-track test days at Road Atlanta and the Mid- Ohio Sports Car Course - site of the next Series event following Lime Rock - as well as a single day on the seven-post/shaker rig. The testing regime has allowed an even greater insight to the Ferrari F430 GTC that the team switched to during the off-season. Now, with five events in eight weeks looming ahead, cars, crew and drivers continue the concentrated single-race focus that has earned the Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) led program two victories (St. Petersburg and Long Beach) already this season.
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix on SPEED Channel starting at Noon (ET), Sunday, July 13. Live timing and scoring of each on-track session and the American Le Mans Series Radio Web broadcast can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
QuotesJim Tafel, Owner/Driver, No. 73: "I am looking forward to getting back in the car at Lime Rock. Alex and I are working well together and we have had some good tests during the break. We are ready for this race with both the No. 71 Bell Micro car and the No. 73."
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: About racing at the newly configured Lime Rock: "Lime Rock as a race is really about looking in the rearview mirrors to avoid the LMP1s into the slow corners. The new corners they have put in will probably increase the problem of quicker cars wanting to pass slower cars before the new corners. Hence, I can see more incidents, not less. The 'bus stop' before the quick downhill corner before the start-finish straight used to give the more skilled driver the chance to overtake before 'Big Bend', now I suspect they will all arrive at the same time." About the challenge of Lime Rock: "Lime Rock will be particularly difficult because of the unknown aspect of the resurfaced track. I don't think it's had enough time to 'cure' but there is a variable in that the rain they have been having will have helped the cure process. We have been fortunate to have had a good period between the last race and this event which has allowed us to go and do some much needed testing."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: About racing at Lime Rock: "I cannot compare Lime Rock with anything else. It is one of a kind. You can never rest; you have to watch your mirrors every second. It is so tight and is very tricky to handle the traffic on this short and narrow course. You look in the mirror and nobody is there, you turn in, and all of a sudden somebody dives to the inside. So, it is going to be so hard to stay out of trouble. The straight is so short; you check your engine temps, then you brake right away. No rest. It is also summertime so it is very hot. It will be hard to get fresh air into the car because we never get up to real top-speed. It will be a very tough race; like St. Petersburg." About finding his rhythm after the long break: "It is very important to get back in a rhythm because we have not driven for a long time. It is not going to be a big problem for me and Dirk. After a few laps we are back in business. We can hardly wait to get back to battle with this fantastic team and car."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73:About racing at Lime Rock: "I think what I'll be focused on in Lime Rock come race day is being efficient in traffic. With a short track like Lime Rock, and being in a GT2 car, the prototypes are going to arrive quickly and often. During the Salt Lake race that was probably the thing that took the most getting used to." About the challenge of Lime Rock: "Learning the car is the biggest thing for me. The track itself doesn't seem to be as big of an issue. Coming from the Champ Car finding speed in the Ferrari is a very different game but being with Dirk and Dom is a huge help. Hopefully another couple of race weekends will put me right on pace." About finding his rhythm after the long break: "It's extremely important to get into a good rhythm at Lime Rock to set a tone for the rest of the summer. Jim has been doing an awesome job in the car and had another good test during the break. I think we're going to have some strong showings."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71:About racing at Lime Rock: "This track is very unique. I can't wait to see all the changes they have done. I am personally very pleased that they are putting so much effort in redoing the track. This means we as drivers need to bring a good show! The challenge will be much higher than on a wider track. First it will mean that the quicker LMP cars will overtake more often. In addition to that, they will have to risk even more to do that. So the biggest challenge is to stay out of trouble."About finding his rhythm after the long break: "For sure it is very important to start well at Lime Rock. We have had a couple of very good tests in between and now I am really looking forward to get deeper into the championship."