Battle to Road America for Four Hour Enduro
Tafel Racing Takes Epic Ferrari vs. Porsche Battle to Road America for Four Hour Enduro
If one were to dream of the perfect, traditional-style road course, they would likely picture Road America. Fast, technical and tree-lined, Road America conjures images of dramatic battles of bygone eras. Few settings seem more appropriate to continue the epic Ferrari versus Porsche struggle for sports car supremacy than the four hour Generac 500 at Road America on August 9. Tafel Racing again enters a pair of Italian exotics that have lifted the "prancing horse" above its German rival on three occasions already this season.
Fresh off a victory at Mid-Ohio on July 19, the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC shared by second-year team driver Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and 2000 GT2 Series champion Dirk Müller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco) will be working to add the team's first American Le Mans Series endurance victory to its resume. Meanwhile, the sister car of Alex Figge (Denver) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) will target the first career GT2 podium for the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC. Both will fight a full field of GT2 competitors while besieged by a large consortium of prototypes on the classic circuit.
The Mid-Ohio victory, the No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari's third of the season, showed that the Cumming, Ga.- based team could prosper at both the tight street circuits - their first two victories came on temporary courses at St. Petersburg, Fla. and Long Beach, Calif. - and the permanent road courses. Road America is the definition of permanent and traditional placing it among the elite, and fastest, circuits in the world with long straights, narrow turns and elevation changes.
The demand on the drivers is intense. That pressure is equaled by the engineers who need to set up for a wide variety of corners balanced with outright speed and the need to reach the finish. Magnifying the trial is the requirement to keep the car competitive over the duration of the four hours. The track design itself offers both the mid-engine Ferrari and the rear- engine Porsche advantages and disadvantages suggesting another striking clash between the two legends.
The Generac 500 is the first "endurance" event on the American Le Mans Series schedule since the season- opening 12 Hours of Sebring - where the No. 73 Ferrari finished fourth, the No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari seventh. However, with endurance races - events of four hours or greater - accounting for three of the remaining five races of the 11 stop season, a premium has been placed on balancing speed with reliability in the championship.
However, at four hours in length, the Road America race leans more closely to an all-out sprint than an endurance event. The Generac 500 is one hour and 15-minutes longer than the traditional "sprint" race. Rounds eight and nine (Mosport and Detroit respectively) will hold to the traditional sprint format while the final two races will be the 1,000 mile/10 hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and the four hour Monterey Sports Car Championship season-finale at Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Elkhart, Lake, Wisc. track first joined the American Le Mans Series in 2002 and became the second four hour endurance event on the schedule in 2007. Tafel Racing came to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn facility north of Milwaukee for the first time last year finishing on an American Le Mans Series podium for the second time in its first season in the Series.
A tape-delayed broadcast of the Generac 500 at Road America can be seen beginning at 2 PM (ET), August 10 on SPEED. XM Satellite Radio Channel 144 will broadcast the full American Le Mans Series Radio web broadcast beginning at 4 PM (ET), August 20.
Live timing and scoring of each on-track session and the live American Le Mans Series Radio Web broadcast can be found at AmericanLeMans.com.
QuotesTony Dowe, Technical Director: "Road America happens to be one of my most favorite circuits. The difficulty of Elkhart Lake is that it is so long in length! Obvious, but a fact. The circuit's design is one of the most difficult to setup for - very long straights with very slow corners that follow very heavy braking periods; all things that create high fuel consumption. So unless it rains, which it always might, after all we are in Wisconsin, or we have lots of caution periods, which can always happen, I look for a fuel consumption type of race."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: About Road America: "Road America is a great, fast track. It reminds me a lot of Europe. It is a little like Spa [Franchorchamps in Belgium] and this is what I like. The biggest challenge is, of course, to stay out of trouble in the race and to score as many points as possible. But also a big challenge is to drive quickly. This track is a little like Mosport; quick and dangerous. The quick corners and hard braking zones will require a lot of courage."
About what he learned at Road America in 2007: "I learned the track, so now I know it. But every time you come to a track you have been to you learn new things and secrets about the track."About his personal strategy for the race: "It is a priority to get points. A DNF would be very bad for us; especially now with the battle between us and the Lizards. So maximum attack but no risk. That is the plan."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71:About Road America: "For sure Road America is a very demanding and challenging track with run-offs and so on. It still has the charm of an American race track and is also very close to our Nordschleife. I do very much like it. I am just very happy that this track is on the calendar. The biggest challenge is to stay concentrated for the whole lap. Because of the length of the track you can loose time easily everywhere."
About his expectations for the Generac 500: "The trick this year will be to stay out of trouble. The last races have shown that there are five cars that are fast and this will be the case at Road America as well. We are on a very good way to improve our self step by step. Even if it gets harder and harder we will keep improving. We get all the support of all our guys, Michelin and Ferrari, which makes me really feel good."
About his objectives for the Generac 500: "We as a team are fighting for the title and it is still early in the season. So our main target will be to finish the race as high as possible, because we need to collect the points. I am very much looking forward to the race."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: About Road America: "Road America has everything to offer in a road course in terms of turns, straightaways and elevation changes. The greatest challenge of Road America, as a driver, is not to bite off more than you can chew. Last year I had the luxury of driving in the rain which made for a long and dark stint with little visibility. I have to say in those conditions I learned quite a bit about patience and attrition."
About his approach to a four hour race: "I approach this event more as a sprint race. We need to be up front and not take a chance of being split by the lead prototype when a caution comes out."