in Grand Prix of Mosport; No. 73 Races to 6th
Tafel Racing leaves the Grand Prix of Mosport with two top-sixth finishes in the American Le Mans Series GT2 class.
The Cumming, Ga.-based operation will also leave Mosport International Raceway with a bitter taste in their mouth. Following a dramatic battle for third, which carried into the final lap, the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC of Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) crossed under the checkered flag in third position but was later given a 30-second penalty and dropped to fourth in the final standings.
The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC co-driven by Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) earned its second-highest finish of the season taking sixth in a race that was equally strong on strategy and race performance. The Bell Micro Racing Ferrari now sits ten points behind in the GT2 Driver Championship with three events remaining in the 11-race American Le Mans Series season.
There will be little rest for Tafel Racing as the team heads south to Michigan for the Sports Car Challenge of Detroit. The race, being run for its second season on the streets of Belle Isle, is schedule for next Saturday, August 30. The final two endurance races of the season; Petit Le Mans (October 4) and Laguna Seca (October 18), follow the Detroit event.
The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari started today's race from third on the GT2 grid with Dominik Farnbacher behind the wheel. Farnbacher drove a strong stint for the first 55 minutes of the two hour and 45-minute event. The young German had a trouble- free drive running as high as second before handing the Bell Micro Ferrari over to Dirk Müller. Müller quickly became embroiled in a three-way, nose-to-tail battle being waged between positions second and fourth. The battle raged for the final two hours of the event eventually becoming an all-out war for the final step of the podium. Müller trailed the championship points leading No. 45 by as little as 0.096 seconds and was rarely more than half-a-second back even in traffic. Müller attempted multiple passes, drawing side-by- side on more than one occasion. The two cars rubbed twice with International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) officials warning both drivers about contact.
On the final lap, Müller, seeing a gap opened by the No. 45, made his final move to get the sixth podium of the season for the No. 71 but the two cars came together as the No. 45 slide sideways. IMSA officials deemed the contact avoidable and, based on the previous warnings, sent-down a 30-second penalty to be added to the No. 71's total race time.
The penalty, which cannot be protested, dropped the car from the podium to fourth and widened the point gap which now stands 135 to 125 points. In the process of the race, Müller set his second fastest race lap (one minute, 18.082 seconds) of the season matching Farnbacher's tally of two.
The No. 73 used the 2.459-mile, 10-turn circuit to earn their second-highest finish of the season, sixth - the season-opening result from the 12 Hours of Sebring was fourth. Jim Tafel opened the race eighth in class and ran consistently strong laps moving into seventh before handing the Ferrari over to Alex Figge. Figge, making his first Mosport start since an open wheel event in 1999, drove the final two hours of the race taking an additional position in a drama-less event. Figge took the checkered flag sixth in class, 20th overall. While being the No. 73's second-best finish of the year, it was the best result for the Figge-Tafel combination which is now in its fifth event. Tafel earned his second Founders Cup - given for the best 'drive' by a racer who does not make motorsports his fulltime profession - of the season in the process.
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "I am incredibly disappointed for the team, the drivers and the fans for such a fantastic race being ended by the stewards in such a manner. Clearly for many, many laps the 45 Porsche blocked us continuously. There were many incidents where we had been taken off the course and I was really proud of the patience that Dirk showed and the racecraft he used at the end to force the 45 into a mistake. The penalty is non-protestable. Clearly it leaves a very bad taste in everybody's mouth. We are racing those guys for a championship and it does seem that following the Elkhart Lake [Road America] incident nothing was done and now there is a decision made against us. Clearly, the obvious thing is to go home and fight again another day."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "My stint was good. I could overtake the Porsche in front of me and I took second position. But, by that time, the 62 was already gone so I took the pace of the leading car. My goal was to keep the 45 car behind me. I did that. I was very, very happy with my stint. I was quite happy to take the podium with Dirk but I am very frustrated in the decision of the officials."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "From the second stop everything was under control. I was in the pack the whole time and I knew I could not press like the No. 62 [race-winning Ferrari]. It was like 55 minutes of studying where I could pass the 45 car. I thought five times I was ahead but he just went wide. The last lap he made a mistake, he covered the inside of [turn] 5A and I positioned myself on the outside. He came sideways between 5A and 5B. I jumped inside nice and clean. We had contact but the contact was because he was closing the door. It was a nice and clear move. I had many chances to make a dirty move and I did not take them. The last contact was avoidable on his side. I am very disappointed in this decision by the officials."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "I would have felt more comfortable and confident with one more second a lap but I had to play the hand I was dealt. I just tried to do the best job that I could to drive it into the window and give it to Alex to finish-up. He went out there and just peeled them off. I improved by one position and he improved by one position. I was really happy to finish with a great result. Alex did a phenomenal job bringing it home."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "It was a great result. The guys were great but I think I lost a little time on the pit stops. I need to get the rhythm right on cranking the ignition as the car is dropping. Jim did a great job. He made huge strides here. I just can't say enough about that. That was probably our biggest gain of the weekend. I knew he was a little bit heartbroken to go down that lap in the end but with all that prototype traffic there isn't much you can do about it. I am really looking forward to Detroit."