in Detroit Top-10; Holds 2nd in GT2 Points
Tafel Racing entered today's Detroit Sports Car Challenge with high expectations for both its No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC and No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC. However, a starter motor failure as Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) handed the Bell Micro entry to Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) on the first pit stop would end the three-time American Le Mans Series GT2 class winners' pursuit of a fourth class victory this season.
The No. 71 would finish ninth in class, 21st overall, at the end of the two hour and 45-minute race. Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) in the No. 73 he shares with Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.), would be on the receiving- end of a glancing blow under passing that would necessitate an additional pit stop. The stop to attach a new mirror cost the car several laps leaving them sixth in class, 17th overall on the 2.096-mile, 14-turn circuit that winds through Detroit's Belle Isle.
The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari took the green flag from the third in the GT2 field with Dominik Farnbacher behind the wheel. The young German was involved in a four-deep, nose-to-tail battle for most of his 50-minute stint.
The fight, which Farnbacher fought from third but within two car- lengths of the leader, carried through the second yellow flag at which time technical director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) called the Bell Micro Ferrari in for fuel, four Michelin tires and a driver change. All went well until Dirk Müller reached for the starter button to ignite the V8 engine just behind his head. The car failed to start. The crew immediately ascertained the problem as a failed starter motor and set to making repairs.
A spare starter, donated by fellow Ferrari team Risi Competizione, arrived seven minutes after Farnbacher entered pit lane. 11 minutes later Müller pushed the button and the engine came to full song. The impressive repair of the hot starter - which includes the removal of the car's underbody - was completed in under 20-minutes total; a testimony to the Tafel Racing crew. As it became clear how fast the car was and that Müller could gain positions, the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champion set on the task of picking-off as many cars as possible. He made his final pass for position on the second to last turn of the last lap, moving from 10th to ninth at the checkered flag. In the process, he added his third fastest race lap of the season (one minute, 25.082 seconds) on lap 54 of 74. It was the team's fifth fastest race lap of the season and its fourth in a row.
The Bell Micro squad retains second in the American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver and Team Championship chase with two races remaining. The drivers currently sit 28 points out of the lead while the team is 35 markers back. 55 points remain available in the final two races of the season.
Jim Tafel started the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC from 11th position. Tafel held the position for most of his stint gaining two spots as he brought the No. 73 in for a driver change just short of the one hour mark. Alex Figge, making his sixth career GT2 start, his first on a street course, made impressive strides until a prototype made an inside move, up on the curb, passing the No. 73 and taking off the passenger-side mirror in the process. Race officials ordered Figge in for a repair. The stop would cost the car three laps in the final scoring and the chance to better its season- high best finish - a fourth earned at the season 12 Hours of Sebring.
QuotesTony Dowe, Technical Director: "One day you're the windscreen the next day you're the fly. The starter motor is the first mechanical failure of the year but it came at a time that it was least welcome. However, one famous person once said: 'it ain't over, til it's over."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "I think my start was very good. My goal was to give Dirk a good car for the last stint. I tried to overtake Melo [No. 62] but it was impossible. I was already on the edge, he was already on the edge and Wolf [Henzler, No. 45] in front was on the edge. It was like a little train we made. There was a lot of action in there. I tried to stay out of trouble and let the other two become involved in an incident but it didn't happen. I came in and everything worked well. Dirk got in the car and 'boom' there it was; our bad luck. That happens but if that decides the championship it would be very sad. Now we have to take some risk to come back. You never know what will happen but I am excited for the next race."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "I was just flying out there. The car was awesome. I had a lot of fun with that. I even gained positions in the second to last corner. So, it really paid off to push to the end. I am personally satisfied with the fastest race lap but disappointed for the team. We lost a little momentum. There is nobody to blame for it. I am thankful to the team for the nice race car at the end. Now we need to look-up, keep focused and keep pushing."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "That was a tough race for sure. Jim did a great job. I think it was one of the best performances I have seen him have. I was trying to be a little positive with the prototype and let him know I was in a fight but, he had already committed and took off our mirror. We had to fix that and that cost us a lot of time. I felt like I ran a good pace. We bounced off a curb pretty bad and I think we did something to the gearbox or something. We were struggling at the end but we stayed in there for a top- six. So, I was excited for that."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "I am obviously happy with another top-10 for the No. 73. Personally, I didn't get my times where I wanted or needed them to be. It was hard to get the car to turn. I think I had a lot of pickup on the tires. I just had to keep it off the wall and hand it over to my co-driver. Alex drove another great race and I am looking forward to moving on to Atlanta and Laguna from here."
Tafel Racing now turns its full attention to the final two endurance races of the season. The Cumming, Ga.- based operation will use the month of September to prepare for their hometown event, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (October 4) and the Monterey Sports Car Challenge season-finale at Raceway Laguna Seca (October 18).