Advantage for Petit Le Mans
Teams in every sport seek the "home field" advantage. The emotional support of the local crowd, the comforts of sleeping at home and the familiarity of your surroundings is an indefinable boost to performance.
For Tafel Racing, that home field advantage couldn't have come at a better time than Petit Le Mans. The local knowledge of the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta facility could give that additional spark to the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC of Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco) and the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC driven by Alex Figge (Denver) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.). Currently sitting second in GT2 championship points, the Bell Micro entry can make significant inroads to the team's first American Le Mans Series championship with a victory at the 11th Annual Petit Le Mans on October 4.
The Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, just 45-minutes from Tafel Racing's Cumming, Ga. shop, is the second longest event on the American Le Mans Series schedule. The endurance event comes at a decisive point in the 2008 GT2 class championship with just one race remaining after the checkered flag falls at the end of 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first. Sophomore American Le Mans Series racer Farnbacher and 2000 GT2 Champion Müller have captured three class victories, five fastest race laps - including the last four events - and one pole position in the first nine races of the 11 race season. Only on-track debris which damaged the No. 71 at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring and a starter failure in Detroit have significantly delayed the championship chase for the Bell Micro machine. The No. 73 has a season-high of fourth at Sebring and has two consecutive sixth-place finishes in the two most recent rounds.
Road Atlanta has been very good to the team in the past. In 2007, Tafel Racing earned its highest finish of its rookie season, second, here with Farnbacher sharing the No. 71 with Wolf Henzler (Germany). It was Farnbacher's and the team's highest American Le Mans Series finish until taking their first victory at St. Petersburg, Fla. earlier this year. Müller has been the most successful of the drivers in the endurance classic.
He took the class victory from the pole position in 1999, the race's second running. Müller added two more podiums (second in 2001 and third in 2000) in three other starts in the "Petit" and won the class pole position during a two hour, 45-minute race in the spring of 1999. Like the team, Road Atlanta is the home track for Jim Tafel. Tafel, who will be making his second career Petit Le Mans start, took his initial race driving schools at Road Atlanta. Figge will be making his Petit Le Mans debut this year but had his initial shakedown runs with Tafel Racing here at Road Atlanta. Many of the crew have stood in victory lane with other teams but a win with Tafel Racing in front of family and friends would be especially savored.
For the first time in Petit Le Mans history, live, full coverage of qualifying for all four classes will be offered on SPEEDTV.com. The coverage will begin on Friday, October 3 with GT2 and GT1 time trials at 3:25 PM (ET).
Six-and-a-half hours of live coverage of the 11th Annual Petit Le Mans on SPEED begins at 11 AM (ET), October 4. XM Satellite Radio will broadcast the first two hours of the race and will return to live coverage at 8 PM (ET) and follow the event through to the checkered flag on Channel 166. 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: About racing 'at home': "We finally get to a 'home' race! There are a number of benefits to being at a 'home' race. The guys get to go home at night and sleep in their own beds. The local trade people that support us during the year get to see what we have been racing, so that's all good. The families also see what the guys have been doing. So it means that the pressure is quite high. None of them want to have to go home with anything less than the best result."About event preparations: "We have tested at Road Atlanta three or four times this year, so we have a pretty good idea of what we will run for the base setup. There are just a few items we want to test 'back- to-back' so we can have a solid car when we get to the race."
About the race's implications to the championship: "Clearly, the race is important with the championship situation. But, I think the whole team knows what we need to do and then we will see where the cards fall. I think we can have a good approach to this race because there is nothing to lose. Just do what it takes and see where we are before Laguna."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71:About Petit Le Mans: "Last year Porsche and Ferrari were on the same level at Road Atlanta. I would say it will be the same this year. We had a very good testing program in Atlanta earlier this year and we were pretty fast. I am sure we will be on top of the game."
About the race's implications to the championship: "Petit Le Mans is going to be very important to us. We are still in the championship run and we will not give up until the checkered flag is out in Laguna. If the Lizards fail at Petit and we win, we are back in the game."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71:About the importance of Petit Le Mans: "Petit is unique because it becomes a 1,000 mile sprint race. I was so close in 2000 and 2001 but then I missed it at the end. In those two races you can see that winning here is really not so easy. Over the years it became stronger and stronger and it would be a real thrill to win Petit Le Mans this year. We have the right ingredients to be successful and we will push for that!"
About the track: "Road Atlanta is very intense in terms of keeping the car on the road. It has very challenging corners with only little possibilities to overtake. This is very tricky, to be quick watching the mirror and avoiding the contact with the extra quick and aggressive LMPS. I very much like the track and I know that the Tafel Ferrari is very strong here as well. We went extremely quick here during our summer tests."
About the race's implications to the championship: "We must collect more points than the competitors here to close the gap in points. Personally, I am not so focused on the points. I like to give my personal best in both the events [Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca] and, if we match everybody there, then I believe it will be really good. I am very much looking forward. Luckily, I have had a lot of these situations in my racing career."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: About the importance of Petit Le Mans: "Obviously, to win any of the endurance events would be awesome. I think the [number] 73 car has made huge strides this year in terms of overall performance so to not have a good showing at Petit would be a huge personal disappointment. With Tafel Racing performing at the level they have been this year, I think the longer race distance gives us a better opportunity for a great finish. 1,000 miles is a long way in terms of reliability and being mistake free. That being said, my mindset is the same as every weekend; I'm going to drive as fast as I can for as long as Dave [Fullerton, engineer], Jim and the team need me to. In the end I think we're going to be happy at the checkered."
About the track: "I had the chance to test at Road Atlanta when I first joined Tafel Racing and I know it's one of Jim's favorite tracks so I'm really looking forward to starting the weekend. I think my advantage at Road Atlanta will come from having been there in the Ferrari. This will be the first race where I've been to the track in this car before the weekend."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "I believe we will have a lot of support from our local fans from the Atlanta area. There is no better strength to pull from than your own home town. Contact or careless racing and any mistakes in the pits are obstacles that we need to stay away from. To win Petit Le Mans would be the biggest race win of the year for Tafel Racing."