Factory Driver Logs Over Three Hours in No. 17 Porsche
It was six intense hours of American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón racing for Bryan Sellers at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Braselton, Ga.-resident qualified and started the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche GT3 RSR he shares with Wolf Henzler (Germany) at the American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patrón. The duo finished seventh in GT class. The Falken factory driver spent over three hours and ten minutes of the six-hour enduro on Saturday, May 12 behind the wheel of the No. 17 including a two-hour opening stint. The former open-wheel racing champion entered this weekend's race with several question marks and limited track time to find the answers. Like all teams, the first unknown was a calendar switch from September to May that promised - and delivered - lower ambient and track temperatures. The second set of questions to be answered were a group of modifications introduced by IMSA - sanctioning body of the ALMS - and Porsche for this weekend. In an effort to balance the competitive field, 20 additional kilograms of weight were added to all Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs. In exchange, a substantially larger rear wing and front splitter helped to better balance the new-for-2012 car. A larger air restrictor gave the flat-six engine additional horsepower and torque. Lastly, Falken introduced a new taller Azenis racing slick to the help maximize performance after substantial changes to the Porsche versus last year's variant. While all beneficial, the modifications demanded new setups and a new thought pattern for Sellers and the Falken team. The two-time ALMS GT class winner was tabbed to start the car after driving the rear-engine German sports car ninth in Friday's qualifying session. When the green flag fell, he had been moved up to sixth on the grid. Fighting with cool temperatures and the unknowns of a race setup versus the practice and qualifying setup the drivers had tested earlier in the weekend, the Ohio-native fell back early on. However, feeling the field now settling into endurance race mode, Sellers went on the attack and quickly began turning lap times on par with the GT class leaders. Sellers pitted under caution 43-minutes into the event. With new tires, he again started the fight back towards the front of the pack. Sellers worked his way to fifth when the second round of pit stops at the two-hour mark took him out of the car. Henzler drove for one hour and when Sellers got back behind the wheel the No. 17 was running fifth. He would drive an additional one-hour and ten-minute stint and gained one position. Sellers would hand the car back to Henzler for the final dash to the finish while in fourth. A pit strategy gamble to leave Henzler on the same set of tires for two stints would move Henzler to the lead. However, he would eventually fall as new tires on other competitors ate into his lead. He would take the checkered flag in seventh. Replays of the American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patrón are offered at www.ALMS.com. Quotes
On the ALMS Monterey: "It certainly wasn't the result we were hoping for. I think we are all very disappointed with how the week finished. There were such high-hopes heading into the race and, unfortunately, it just wasn't a great race for us. We have a very clear focus on where we need to improve now. Prior to this weekend there had been some questions on exactly what that needed to be. However, now there are no more questions. We have some time off before the next race at Lime Rock and hopefully we will have the ability to address what needs addressing. I am confident that Team Falken Tire can put it all together and we can win more races like we did in 2011!" On the Porsche aero changes and Falken tire changes made prior to the weekend: "The changes were in the right direction for sure. One of the things we lacked to the other cars was aero grip and the changes Porsche made to the rear wing and front splitter brought us closer. It took a little while to get a handle on the car with the changes. It was drastically different so there was some acclimation time but I feel like we did a good job. We'll keep fine-tuning it and be right there."On his two-hour opening stint: "It was a long opening stint but once you're in the car you know your job and you have to do it. I enjoy the long stints. It isn't easy at a place like Laguna but I think it makes you better as a driver for the shorter races that follow." On the race traffic: "Traffic was difficult. There weren't a ton of cars or a ton of traffic but because of the nature of the track when you did get stuck in traffic it was a major drop-off in lap time. Unfortunately, we were kind of in our own race the whole time. We were fighting to be right on the cusp of being in the lead battle so there were no big moments."On the pit strategy call to remain on the same tires for the final two stints: "Rolling the dice was our best chance. It was a great call. We were sitting in sixth at the time of the last pit stop and could only drop to seventh because all the other cars were laps down. We thought in the best-case scenario we looked like heroes and worst-case we lost a spot. It wasn't a knee jerk call. It was something we had discussed in great depth in all of our strategy meetings."