Tight, Hot Mid-Ohio GT2 Race

No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro to Start 4th, No. 73 12th in Tight, Hot Mid-Ohio GT2 Race

With less than three-tenths of a second separating the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC in fourth-place from the pole-winning Ferrari, qualifying for today's Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge showed just how intense the two hour and 45-minute event will be.

Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) driving the Bell Micro Ferrari turned a lap of one minute, 20.324 seconds to earn the outside of the second row of the GT2 grid. Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.), making his first qualifying attempt of the season, lapped the 2.25-mile long, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at 1:24.047 to place the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC 12th in the GT2 class.

Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari on track. Image by Rick Dole 2000 American Le Mans Series champion Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) will join Farnbacher in Saturday's race as the two Germans fight for their third class victory of the season. The two victories - St. Petersburg (Fla.) and Long Beach (Calif.) - came from the fourth starting position. Open- wheel standout Alex Figge (Denver), making his return to the American Le Mans Series with Tafel Racing, will share the No. 73 Tafel Ferrari with Jim Tafel. Figge and Tafel will be sharing the car for the third time this season tomorrow. The tight competition was only half the story during today's two practices and single, 20-minute qualifying session. The heat was equally intense for the competitors. With a cloudless sky and temperatures in the 90s (F), the temperature tried drivers' physical conditioning and the grip of the Michelin Pilot racing slicks. With conditions expected to be as hot, or hotter, than today for Saturday's 2:30 PM (ET) start, the temperature inside the cockpit could reach into triple digits inside the cockpit. With their heart rate exceeding that of a marathon runner, the drivers, wearing triple layer fire-retardant suits, will need to take additional precautions to avoid the potential impact of the summer weather.

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge marks NBC Sports' first American Le Mans Series broadcast of the season. A tape-delayed airing of the event can be seen on your local NBC affiliate on Sunday, July 20 from Noon until 2:30 pm (ET). 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, Qualifying Driver, No. 73: "Traffic is going to equalize everything in the race tomorrow. It is going to be a long race; hot and greasy. Whoever is the most consistent and can come up with the strategy to put themselves up front is going to be who wins the race."

Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "Starting from fourth on the grid seems to be a lucky grid position for us. Given how close everything is we are really looking forward to how the race will unfold. Last year the race finished early for us but, with the 100 percent record that we have in the ALMS this year, we are looking forward to a terrific finish; hopefully the top step of the podium."

Dominik Farnbacher, Qualifying Driver, No. 71: "I made a mistake on my quick lap so I am not 100 percent happy with myself. Fourth-place is OK. The race, as we know, will contain a lot of surprises. We need to stay out of trouble in tomorrow. The Michelin tires were great. I am very happy, not with myself, but with the whole Tafel team. I hope to make it better in the race, to gain some positions at the start and to give Dirk a very good car for another victory."

Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "I am really, really happy to be a part of this championship this year. GT2 is the tightest battle I have ever seen in my life! It is very, very tight. Being within three-tenths for the first four positions shows that a single mistake will decide the race tomorrow. We are pretty happy with the Tafel car. I am really looking forward to the race. I expect even more competition this week than last week. This track allows even more racing within the classes. It is going to be a tight race."

Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "It was a good day. We made a lot of changes to the car and we learned some stuff. I think Jim did a good job in qualifying. If we can run that same pace in the race I think we should have a good day tomorrow. It is going to be a warm race; there is no doubt about that. Is it warmer than Lime Rock? It is pretty similar. I think it will be alright."