No. 73 14th in 1,000 Mile Petit Le Mans on Saturday
It was a tale of two missions for Cumming, Ga.-based Tafel Racing in qualifying here at Road Atlanta for tomorrow's 11th Annual Petit Le Mans.
The championship-contending No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC will start third in the American Le Mans Series' penultimate round with Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco) driving.
The No. 71 put in a strong effort to win the pole position while the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC, shared this weekend by Alpharetta, Georgia's Jim Tafel, Pierre Ehret (Santa Rosa, Calif./Germany) and Alex Figge (Denver), focused on additional seat time over outright speed and will start 14th in class.
Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) held Müller, the 1999 Petit Le Mans class winner, in pit lane for the opening moments of the 20-minute qualifying session to help clear the 2.54-mile, 12-turn facility. When released, Müller made an immediate impact on the time charts with the No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari. The 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champion turned the second quickest lap at that point in the session with a one minute, 19.510 second lap. Müller's hot lap would drop to third quickest as the No. 87 turned in a time 3/10ths of a second faster. The German made several attempts but was not able to drop below the 1:20 range. The decision was then made to bring the No. 71 in to refuel and balance the air pressures of the Michelin tires. However, the best efforts of Müller and the Tafel crew were not able to better the time. 2007 event runner-up Farnbacher and Müller will start the 1,000 miles or 10 hour race from the inside of the second row of the GT2 field. The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari chose a different approach for its qualifying effort. The yellow-accented Ferrari had missed much of the week's testing and practice first with a gearbox issue and then with a broken header on two different occasions. Due to the lack of seat time engineer David Fullerton opted to use the qualifying session as a practice for Ehret and Figge who had the least number of laps in the car. Open wheel standout Figge took to the track first in the No. 73. He turned a quick time of 1:23.096, 14th in class, before quickly handing the car over to 2005 24 At Daytona GT class winner Ehret. Ehret then closed the session to reacquaint himself with the V8- powered Italian exotic he last drove at the season- opening 12 Hours of Sebring. Ehret joined Jim Tafel and Allan Simonsen (Denmark) to a fourth-place finish, the car's best result of the year thus far, at Sebring.
The No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari and the No. 73 will have a 25 minute warm-up session to fine-tune the cars prior to tomorrow's Road Atlanta endurance classic.
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: "This is the second-longest race we do and somebody's got to win it; I think it should be us. The team, drivers and everyone involved has put maximum effort into this race. It is a home race and a lot of the people that support us have already called by so we know there is that little extra pressure to this race. Like Dirk and Dom, I think we can perform to the maximum for the whole race. I look forward to celebrating with the team tomorrow night."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71 "For the race tomorrow we are going to have to watch behind us but we are going to try and win this race. It is the most important race for us. We have to earn maximum points and the [Flying] Lizards have to have some problems and then we are back in the game. We are going to try our best and if it doesn't work, we still did out best."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "We are in good shape. We tried something in qualifying with the tire pressures which worked out. The car was very consistent and stable so it is a very good race car. Position three is a good start for the race. I am happy and luckily the Petit Le Mans is a long race. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I hope the boys in the LMP cars learned a lesson with all the red flags in practice and will behave in the race. I am looking to do my best like the whole team and I believe it is going to be a good race."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "For us it really wasn't qualifying. We switched drivers part way through. It is what it is. We have to get on to it tomorrow, stay clean and have a good result. We'll move on to tomorrow and just try and have a good race. You have to drive cautiously and just try and finish the race."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "As long as we can keep making gains that will be fantastic. Every year I watch this race I realize that you just have to stay out of the pits and on the track to get a solid finish. We have both ends balanced on the car and really just want to have a sound race and get a good finish."