Petit Le Mans Provides American Young Gun 6th Top-5 of 2011, 5th in Driver's Chase
Bryan Sellers closed the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón season with a fifth-place finish in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The result at October 1st's 14th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta was the Braselton, GA-residents sixth top-5 finish of 2011. The year, his third as a Falken Tire factory driver, ranked as the best of his sports car career both in race finishes and with a fifth-place championship result. Joined with season-long teammate Wolf Henzler (Germany), Sellers won two GT-class races this year (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Baltimore) and added the other top-fives at Long Beach, Lime Rock Park and Mosport International. Martin Ragginger (Austria) joined Falken's two regular drivers at Sellers' home race in Braselton. As the green flag flew, few would have guessed that Sellers' day would end so well 1,000-miles later. The former open-wheel champion was forced to start the ALMS finale from pit lane when the car failed to take part in the "recon"/formation lap an hour before the 11:30 a.m. (ET) start. A late thrash to mount tires for the race start came-up just short. As the opening driver, Sellers saw the full 53-car field streak by as he waited to leave pit lane and join the race. Coming across the start-finish line at the end of the first lap, the blue and teal Porsche was 17th in class. Within 30 minutes, Sellers had streaked it to eighth. Team Falken Tire director Derrick Walker (Indianapolis) called for each driver to run a double stint - two full fuel loads - to make the most of the program's strong suits. In his first of two double stints - approximately two hours each - Sellers moved quickly through the field running as high as fifth before handing the German sports car over to Porsche factory driver Henzler. Henzler and Ragginger each drove a double-stint before the Ohio-native climbed back behind the wheel of the Porsche at the race's six-hour, 45-minute mark. The car was sixth in class. Sellers moved the Falken Tire car up one more position and held fifth until relinquishing the No. 17 to Henzler for one last time this season. The German held fifth for the final 45-minutes of the race to lock the best career season for Sellers, Team Falken Tire and the Falken race tire. The top-five performance at Petit Le Mans reaped rewards in the championship. Sellers and Henzler secured fifth-place in the GT class Driver's Championship with 97 points accrued over the nine-race ALMS season. The fifth at Road Atlanta also benefited Porsche helping the German car marque take second in the manufacturer standings. As a result of the Sellers/Henzler combination and the added benefit of Walker's leadership, Team Falken Tire overcame the odds to be ranked as the highest-placing, single-car entry in the 2011 Team Championship by placing fourth. Equally remarkable considering it has only one entry, Falken Tire captured third in the tire manufacturer title chase. Perhaps the greatest honor Team Falken Tire received was the 2011 'From the Fans' award. The annual prize, voted on by the fans through AmericanLeMans.com, is awarded to the group or individual that made the most significant impact on the ALMS during a season. It is an impressive achievement and testimony to the effort put forth by all of Team Falken Tire in just the manufacturers' fourth season of ALMS competition. Quotes
About the Petit Le Mans: "It was a great day. We really struggled for speed and car balance early in the week, but we were able to come together as a team and pull a top-five finish out of what we thought would be a top-10 at best. This was really a team effort by everyone at Team Falken Tire. It was great to be a part of it.
The race itself was very difficult; traffic was incredible. It was much more mentally taxing than any other race of the season. The doubles were long stints in those conditions. I was pretty fortunate in the race though. Things went pretty smoothly for me. I was able to stay out of trouble and run cleanly the whole time. Sometimes an uneventful race is a good thing. It is very difficult to score highly in the points without the bonus of the long races so we knew we had to finish one of the endurance races and Petit was our last chance. Finishing was a huge priority and we achieved it. It helped us in the championship."About the season: "We reached a lot of goals that we had set internally. We were all very pleased with the wins and the top-fives but, unfortunately as human nature has it, as soon as we got one win we wanted two, and when we got two we wanted three. Now, we are pushing hard to try and be better yet again next year.
The accomplishments this year for a program as young as ours was very amazing, the whole Team Falken Tire program was extremely dedicated and focused. To finish where we did in all the points categories was very rewarding. To end the year with two wins, six top-five finishes and fourth in the ALMS team championship is a testimony to all the effort the guys put into it this year." About Team Falken Tire winning the "From the Fans" Award: "The fans selected their favorite program and the one with the largest impact on the ALMS and that was Team Falken Tire and Walker Racing. It is a testimony to everything Falken Tire is trying to do. To be recognized by the fans for all the effort the guys back in Japan making the tires put in and all Team Falken Tire puts in here means a lot to us as a program. There is very little that can be more rewarding than knowing you made a difference!"Coverage of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda can be found for three weeks following the event date at ESPN3 and thereafter at AmericanLeMans.com.