Works Driver Helps Team Falken Tire to Top-Six in ALMS GT Class
Limited track time - and not a single dry weather lap - was not enough to scare Bryan Sellers as he took the green flag for Saturday's Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach (Calif.). Instead, the Braselton, Ga.-resident stared down the challenge, answering it by setting the pace in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he shares with Wolf Henzler (Germany). The Falken Tire factory ace drove the opening stint - just short of half-distance in the two hour American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón (ALMS) event - on Saturday afternoon moving the car from eighth-place in GT class to fourth. After a full-dry race, Team Falken Tire would take sixth in class, 12th overall, in the second round of the 10-race championship. The team was the highest-ranking Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Sellers opened the single, two-hour practice session of the weekend for Team Falken Tire on Friday morning. However, an unusual Southern California rainstorm soaked the track and hampered any setup efforts on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course. Sellers handed the car over to teammate Henzler and he would not set foot in the car again until the start of the race having never had a dry lap. Henzler, a renowned wet-weather racer, qualified the car in conditions that changed rapidly from dry to washout. Despite the No. 17 setting the quickest lap in class, qualifying was abandoned due to the weather and the field was set on team championship points - Team Falken Tire would start eighth, 23rd overall. It was determined to start Sellers and run the former open wheel-racing champion for the race's opening stint.
Sellers took the green flag under brilliant blue skies and he wasted no time in getting the feel of the new 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Falken AZENIS racing slick on the dry track. Within the first five minutes, he had already gained two positions in a car with an unfamiliar setup on a tricky street course. Within two more minutes he moved into the top-five on a track some say you can't pass on. Before the 30-minute mark, Sellers had the only Falken-shod car in the field running fourth and closing hard on third. In the process, the Ohio-native set the No. 17's quickest lap for the day with a time of one-minute, 21.465 seconds on lap 28. Trouble passing traffic from Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars - purpose-built race cars with higher top-end speeds - hampered the fourth-year Falken Tire-driver from entering the top-three. With the first full-course caution flag falling at the 50-minute mark, Sellers entered pit lane fourth - the highest Team Falken Tire has run since winning the Baltimore Grand Prix last season. Henzler entered the race in fifth-position with approximately one hour remaining. A long, spirited battle would eventually see the Porsche factory driver drop to the team's final finishing position of sixth as he fought an ever-worsening oversteer condition.
Round three of the 2012 ALMS season will be the American Le Mans Monterey Presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 12. Sellers will travel next to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Sports Car Challenge series on April 28.
On the Long Beach Grand Prix: "There was certainly some concern about our dry weather setup going into the race. We had done no running in the Falken Porsche in any conditions other than pouring rain so it was a guess on what would work best. We had good information from last year, so we had a good base to start from, but there was no telling what kind of wrench the new car would throw into our setup. I did have some of the oversteer problems that Wolf had [later in the race] but at much less extremes. There is something that needs to be looked into on that front. It is very rare that Wolf and I complain about anything different, so to my best guess something changed, perhaps something broke on the car to develop the extreme oversteer during his stint."
On traffic with other classes: "Unfortunately, my stint was filled with PC cars. It was a very difficult position to be in for everyone. Some of them were not as quick as the GT cars and they were nearly impossible to pass without them helping. I spent the better part of 30-minutes trapped behind a car, but that's street course racing and you have to manage it. It's very difficult knowing that you have the speed to move forward but are not able to because of traffic. It's tough because you want the cars to let you by, but they are in their own race as well so it's not going to happen."