ALMS Season-Opener Proves Mettle of Sports Car Young Gun Over its 60 years, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida has made legends of those that have fought to overcome one of the world's most physically and emotionally punishing auto racing event. The March 17 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón season-opener at Sebring International Raceway proved to be that and more to Bryan Sellers. The Braselton, Ga.-resident had to fight every second of the 12-hour event to help bring the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he shared with Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Martin Ragginger (Austria) to the checkered flag. The sports car racing young gun proved his mettle against a seemingly never-ending set of obstacles thrown before him to finish eighth in the ALMS GT class. The week leading-into the race was challenging enough for Team Falken Tire and the two-time Series race-winner. The world introduction of a newly updated Porsche 911 GT3 RSR as well as a new Falken AZENIS racing slick here at Sebring demanded new setups and approaches to driving the iconic German sports car on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn road course. Sellers and the team worked to find the "sweet spot" in setup allowing a fast yet reliable combination that would permit the fourth-year Falken "works" driver to go head-to-head with factory entries from Ferrari, BMW, Aston Martin, Corvette as well as several other Porsches. Having qualified 13th on Friday, the race looked difficult enough. However, an engine failure on race morning in the final warm-up left the team wondering if they would make the green flag, never mind the full race distance. A remarkable engine change - taking only one-hour and 30-minutes to complete - by Team Falken Tire allowed Henzler to join the field from pit lane as the green flag flew. The team would struggle to overcome the deficit all day but Porsche factory driver Henzler had brought the car as high as third in the first hour. Sellers had raised expectations as he readied to take the wheel for the second driving stint of the race. However, a growing vibration in the car tempered enthusiasm. Just short of the race's two-hour mark - less than 30-minutes into Sellers' stint - the expert test and development driver returned the car to pit lane. The team found and repaired a cracked engine mount and, less than 45-minutes later, the former open-wheel-racing champion returned to the track. The fight was now on for Sellers and his Team Falken Tire co-drivers to reward the hard work by the crew. Lap-after-lap of the trio fought to close the gap on the class leaders. Having fallen as far as 13th, the sole Falken tire representatives in the 63-car field were able to claw their way back to eighth in the ALMS GT-class. The top-ten finish allows the No. 17 to enter The Tequila Patrón America Le Mans Series at Long Beach (Calif.) - traditionally one of its strongest circuits - on April 14 with championship aspirations still intact in the hotly contested production-based class. The 60th Anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring broadcast is available on www.ESPN3.com immediately and will be available on www.ALMS.com in three weeks. Quotes
About his race: "The Falken guys deserve a lot better result that eighth. They put in a championship-worthy performance during the 12 Hours. We struggled all week finding the right setup. The guys just worked so hard making change after change trying to get the tire and the new chassis to gel. We knew we weren't going to be the fastest in the race but we thought we could put together a good race car and run towards the front. The engine change and then engine mount sealed our fate. Still, no one on the team ever gave-up. We just kept pushing until the end. The Team Falken Tire Porsche was actually the best it had been all weekend during the race but we were just too far back. Wolf and Martin ran a great race but we started off on the back foot and just couldn't catch all the way back up. We'll take eighth but we know this Falken Porsche has a whole lot more in it. We'll go on to Long Beach and show it."About the team's performance: "When we lost the engine in warm-up I don't think anyone gave us a chance of making the green flag, let-alone the checkered. But the Falken crew did one of the most amazing engine swaps I have ever seen. It is just unheard of to do an engine change in a Porsche in under two hours and yet Team Falken Tire did it in an hour-and-a-half! Wolf, Martin and I really wanted to pay them back with a good result in the race to show our gratitude. Then, about 25-minutes in my first stint, the vibration that Wolf first felt in his stint got so bad I couldn't drive the car. We figured it was better to stop immediately. We found a cracked engine mount and the guys had to go to work again! After that we just tried to keep our nose clean and drive smart and keep it on the track. I was relieved to see the checkered flag but I was also really disappointed we didn't get closer to the front in the end. It was a tough week but something really good came from it. I never doubted it but now everyone knows how strong our team is!"