No. 73 Brings Home 8th
Tafel Racing collected its third American Le Mans Series GT2 class victory yesterday in the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge.
The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC of Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) and Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) were rewarded with their third victory of the season - joining wins at St. Petersburg, Fla. and Long Beach, Calif. - after a brilliant pit strategy call jumped the car from fourth into a one lap lead with the team's first of two pit stops. The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC co-driven by Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) made a sizeable leap through the field gaining four positions from their starting spot to finish eighth on the 2.25-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
The Bell Micro Ferrari brought home a victory after being at or near the top of the GT2 time sheets all weekend. Dominik Farnbacher, who qualified the car fourth, went on to set the fastest GT2 race time. Dirk Müller set the quickest GT2 time in the final morning warm-up before the race. From fourth on the grid, Farnbacher set to work in his typical quiet but quick fashion keeping on the tail of the three leading GT2 cars.
Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) intuitively watched the calls from other teams on pit lane and played the strategy perfectly at the race's first of four caution periods. Farnbacher entered pit lane in fourth-place handing the Bell Micro Ferrari over to Müller approximately one hour into the two hour and 45-minute race. The pit crew returned the No. 71 back on track quickly with Müller taking advantage of Dowe's race strategy to springboard from fourth into the race lead. A misstep in the strategy of competitors, compounded by pit lane troubles, would further benefit Tafel/Bell Micro giving Müller a one lap lead he would never relinquish. The No. 71 finished ninth overall in the four-class event. It was the 11th career American Le Mans Series victory for Müller, the 2000 GT2 Champion, and the third for Farnbacher. It was the first Mid-Ohio win for either driver. With victories in 50 percent of the events this season, Farnbacher and Müller have moved to within four points of the lead in the GT2 Driver Championship chase with five races remaining.
No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTCDrivers: Alex Figge (Denver, Col.), Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.)
The No. 73 Tafel Ferrari F430 GTC started 12th in today's race - the car's fourth race of the season and the third with the Jim Tafel-Alex Figge combination. Tafel took the green flag and started his attack moving up to tenth before the first caution. Strategist David Fullerton called the No. 73 into the pits at the same time as the No. 71 sister car one hour into the event. Figge returned to the track in tenth and would be holding eighth-place 20 minutes later. An extended caution and unfortunate timing of another yellow flag - which dropped the car a second lap behind - kept Figge from gaining more spots in his third race since returning to the American Le Mans Series at Salt Lake City in May. The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari would eventually have to settle for eighth-place in class, 18th overall, two laps behind their race winning teammates of Farnbacher and Müller.
QuotesJim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "I didn't go out there and force it. I knew my position and every car in front of me that I saw I just reeled in. I just tried to bring back an awesome car for Alex. I am really happy with my stint. I wish I was a little quicker but that will come with time. I am glad that I made no mistakes and I was out there consistently hitting every lap. Alex did a great job for the rest of the race. I am thrilled for the [number] 71. What a great feeling. Dominik and Dirk both had great runs. The team was awesome. I'm really proud of the guys."
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "It was a really good race. We knew from qualifying and warm-up this morning that we could win. When you have that mental edge it makes a big difference. We were very unfortunate at Lime Rock and we really dug-in after that. We had to go back to Atlanta [to the team shop to make repairs] with the 71 car and everyone, from the truckies that drove all night to the guys working on the car, did an awesome job. The people from Michelotto that were here helped and did a super job. Everyone did. You say that but this was special."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "My stint was good. I think I could have improved a position but I didn't want to risk anything. We are in the middle of the season and I was right behind Wolf [Henzler, No. 45]. I had a few chances to go by him but I didn't want to risk anything. I had problems with traffic at the beginning but I was able to catch back up to the pack every time. I think we have a pretty good strategy with our guys here on this team. It is incredible."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "I want to congratulate Dominik and the whole Tafel team. The strategy was great. There were two teams that were making mistakes with their strategy and we were right on with our strategy. At the end I just controlled it. I had a lap lead and I never pushed the car towards the end. We knew that we could double stint the Michelin tires, so we didn't change them on the last stop. I am really, really happy. It makes me really proud to be with a team like Tafel. It was a different challenge than Long Beach. You don't need to have a Long Beach every time. There will be more races like that coming in the future but for now I am really happy with this result."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "It was hot, hot, hot. Two hours in the car seemed a bit long today. We got caught-out by the yellow in the beginning but we still got back in the top-10. I think if we hadn't gotten caught in the wrong spot and gone down that lap we would have had a pretty darn good finish. The team was awesome and the stops were awesome. Obviously, the Ferrari is good. I'm really looking forward to Road America."
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge marks NBC Sports' first American Le Mans Series broadcast of the season. A tape-delayed airing of today's event can be seen on your local NBC affiliate on Sunday, July 20 from Noon until 2:30 pm (ET).
Tafel Racing will attempt to retake the GT2 Driver, Team and IMSA Cup point lead at Road America's four hour Generac 500 on August 9.