4th ALMS Win of Season; No. 73 Finishes 11th in Monterey
Tafel Racing closed out the 2008 American Le Mans Series season with its fourth GT2 class victory last night at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The four hour Monterey Sports Car Championships joins St. Petersburg, Fla., Long Beach, Calif. and Mid-Ohio as 2008 victories for Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany living in Monaco). By virtue of the win here at the season finale, the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC won more GT2 victories this year than any other entry.
The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC, driven this weekend by Alex Figge (Denver), Harrison Brix (San Jose, Calif.) and Pierre Ehret (Santa Rosa, Calif./Germany), finished 11th in the daylight into darkness race on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Monterey, Calif. track. Tonight's victory ensured that Tafel Racing finished second in the Team Championship and IMSA Cup for privateer entrants. Farnbacher and Müller clinched second-place in the GT2 Driver Championship at Petit Le Mans in Round 10. The team's seven podium finishes and 10 combined top- fives helped Michelin win the Tire Manufacturer Championship as well.
The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari started the fourth, and final, endurance race of the season from third on the grid. Farnbacher drove the opening stint of the four hour race staying in close contention in the caution- plagued race. Farnbacher entered into an exciting nose-to-tail battle of the Top Three before handing the Italian exotic over to Müller in third-place at the one hour, 30-minute mark.
Müller was able to work his way to second-place as pit stops cycled the lead group. Through the hard driving of the two Germans and the pit strategy of Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.), the Bell Micro machine and the No. 62 Ferrari put a lap lead over the remainder of the 15- car GT2 field. The battle for the top spot became heated between the two Ferraris as they eventually made nose-to-bumper contact just short of the race's midpoint. The damage to the Tafel entry's nose was substantial but did not hamper its performance. Müller took advantage of traffic to overtake for the lead at the two hour, eight minute mark. The 2000 GT2 class champion held the top position for 20-minutes before fresher tires allowed the No. 62 back around. Müller continued to stalk and, with one hour and 14 minutes remaining, again took first place.
Dowe called for the final pit stop, the team's third, with one hour and six minutes remaining. The stop again dropped the Cumming, Ga.-based team to second until the No. 62 had to make its final stop for fuel. Now back in the lead, Müller would not relinquish it. The Bell Micro Ferrari took the checkered flag 14th overall, over four seconds ahead of its fellow Ferrari. Tonight's win was the first for both Farnbacher and Müller at the Monterey Bay-area circuit. It was Müller's 12th career American Le Mans Series victory and Farnbacher's fourth. Ehret made his third start in the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC from 13th in the field. Within the first ten minutes the German had worked into the Top 10 before being forced to stop to fix the alignment of the driver-side mirror which had been struck by a competitor. The stop dropped the No. 73 to 12th and it would struggle to work back into the Top 10. One hour and 33 minutes into the race, the No. 73 made its second pit stop replacing Ehret with Figge. Figge had a strong run keeping the car in the Top Eight but one lap down to the class leaders. On stop three, the open wheel standout would relinquish the ride to San Jose- native Brix. After a lengthy stop to again work on the mirror, Brix took to the track in 11th. He would make a final stop with less than one hour remaining again dropping out of the Top 10. Brix would take his first checkered flag with Tafel Racing 11th in class, 26th overall. In nine starts, the No. 73 Tafel Ferrari earned seven Top Ten finishes taking its best result, fourth, at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring.
A tape-delayed, two hour broadcast of the Monterey Sports Car Championship begins at 2 PM (ET), October 19 on NBC Sports. XM Satellite Radio will broadcast the full race broadcast on a one day delay on Sunday, October 19 at 4 PM (ET) on Channel 144.
QuotesTony Dowe, Technical Director: "The championship was over so we came here to win. That was what it was all about. I guess for the first year with the Ferrari it is not so bad. The guys did a terrific job all year. When you look around the paddock and you look at what we did, clearly everyone here is doing the right things. Fundamentally, we lost the championship at Sebring when we had the radiator problem. I think that was partly inexperience with the car. However, we won four races and that was more than any other team. That makes the loss in the championship more difficult to accept. We know what we have got to do for next year. Porsche will be putting a lot of effort into its GT2 program, the BMW and the Corvette will be arriving. It will get harder and we have a few things to do over the winter."
Jim Tafel, Owner: "What a great way to finish the season. We just went out there with the 71 and ran as flawless as possible. We made no mistakes in the pits, ran the proper strategy and we got the result we came here to get. We just kept pushing and that was what I saw from everyone on this team. I am so happy with everyone's effort. The effort of Bell Micro, East Coast Jewelry, Ulysse Nardin. It was absolutely fabulous."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "The race was good. My start was good. I didn't gain any positions but I also didn't lose any positions. My goal was to give Dirk a good car. I stayed out of trouble. We didn't have any incidents and I was second when I gave the car to Dirk. It was the fourth victory for us. It shows how well the team works together as one unit. I can't wait for doing five victories or more next year. I set my goal for this race to win. Last year we were second and now first. That is how I wished it for me. I am totally satisfied now."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "Winning the last race is sweet. I would say we had one hand on the championship trophy all year. I am proud of our team. Dom did a great job. The team, the Michelin tires, the Ferrari, we had the right package to win the chase. We didn't get the luck but we showed everyone how strong we are. To be the only guys with four victories is very sweet."
About his battle for the lead: "I was two and a half hours in the car. I can't count the number of yellows that I had during my stint. The biggest challenge was keeping the tires warm enough. I was behind the [number] 62 and he was making it very complicated for me. He was really defending. I found the way by and then he pitted under another yellow. He got fresh tires and he was able to out-brake me. Then later I was on fresher rubber and I was able to overtake him again and we were able to stay ahead. It was really great."