Falken Tire Factory Driver to Close ALMS at Road Atlanta with Fan-Designed Livery
With a 1,000-mile or 10-hour curfew, the Petit Le Mans on October 19 has all the earmarks of an endurance race. Only, the 16th running of the race at Road Atlanta isn't an endurance race in the real sense. Bryan Sellers will be making his seventh-career start in the ultra-competitive GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón driving the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. So, after that many starts, five of which have come as a factory driver for Falken Tire, the Braselton, Ga.-resident knows of what he speaks. Despite the race's length, the competition forces every teams' hand to put in an all-out, full-speed performance. For Sellers and teammates Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Nick Tandy (United Kingdom), that means they will be relentless on the Falken Tire Porsche in the season and series' finale at Sellers' 'home' track.
At 2.54-miles in length, the distance around Road Atlanta's 12-turn course is less than the distance to the paddock from Sellers' home in Braselton. The track's high-speed straights and flowing turns manufacture speed. The intensity of the competition -including multiple factory efforts - has created an environment in which every lap must be driven with precision and outright speed. Any mistake, on track or in pit lane, can be the difference between winning and losing. Falken used the track several times earlier this year to test new tire compounds and constructions. However, all of that knowledge was accumulated using the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that was destroyed in the opening moments of the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Now using a fusion of its two-time race-winning 2010 911 GT3 RSR with components of the 2012, the team will be maximizing track time in the multiple "promoter" test days which began at the North Georgia track on Sunday to help minimize any deficit on race day.In the only two ALMS races of the season greater than three-hours in length, Team Falken Tire has enjoyed two podium finishes. At the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Fla.), the trio of Sellers, Henzler and Tandy finished third. The regular-season duo of Sellers and Henzler bettered that at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. with a second-place result in a four-hour race. The two endurance events account for the team's best results of the season. Overall, Sellers has captured three ALMS GT victories since 2010 with Team Falken Tire.Since becoming a works driver for Falken Tire in 2009, Sellers has raced a nearly identical paint schemes in each event. However, the familiar and popular livery of the Japanese tire brand will be replaced with a fan-designed look for the first time ever. Replacing the blue and teal corporate colors will be a black on grey scheme that features a camouflage pattern and a nose using an open shark jaw reminiscent of World War II fighter aircraft. The design, crafted by Belgium's Kevin Neuville and voted on by fans at the Falken Facebook page, was the result of a joint competition by Falken Tire, Microsoft and Turn 10 for its Forza Motorsport Xbox 360 game. The Petit Le Mans will mark the end of the 15-year run of the ALMS. The series, which used the first Petit Le Mans in 1998 to catapult its inaugural season in 1999, will unite with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2014 to create the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The first race of the season will be the January 25-26 Rolex 24 At Daytona (Fla.). The season will close, as many of the ALMS seasons have, here at Road Atlanta on October 4, 2014 with the 17th annual Petit Le Mans.Live coverage of qualifying for all ALMS classes can be found at the Series' web site on Friday, October 18 at 1:50 p.m. EDT. Live streaming of the race can be found on ALMS.com beginning at 11:30 a.m., Saturday while a combination of FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 will provide live race coverage throughout the day on Saturday. An encore presentation of the event can be seen on Sunday, October 20 at 4:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1. Full international coverage, as well as live in-car camera footage, will be available real time at www.ALMS.com. Live timing and scoring of all sessions, including qualifying and the race, are also found on the Series' official web site.QuotesBryan Sellers:On the pace of Petit Le Mans: "There is nothing about Petit Le Mans that is an endurance race other than the distance. From the drop of the green flag it is an all out door-to-door race. It is a very demanding race, physically and mentally; it is by far one of the most difficult races of the year. With the heavy competition and the extreme pace it completely forces your hand in how you have to play the race. There is no other option than to push as hard as you can for as long as you can otherwise you will go laps down quickly."On racing at a track near his home: "There is nothing quite like racing at a home event. This event is even more special, I get to stay at my own house and sleep in my own bed. I like the fact that my family and friends can come and support me and enjoy a little bit of what I get to do everyday."On the success of Road Atlanta and the Petit Le Mans: "One of the best things I have seen take place is the increase in fan support and spectators here at Road Atlanta over the years. Our sport is much different than other sports, but at the end of the day, we are still in it to show what our equipment is capable of and to put on a show. Having the increased spectators has made the event special!"On his expectations for Petit Le Mans: "The last couple of years we have had strong runs leading to the end of the race with the Falken Tire Porsche. Both times, Wolf has been chasing down a podium position at the very end. I hope this time we can finally make it come true and get on the podium for Falken Tire and Porsche."On challenges of Petit Le Mans: "I would say one of the most difficult parts of Petit is the nighttime. There are a lot of corners that it is very difficult to see the prototypes approaching to pass you. When the lights are in your mirrors you loose depth perception and it is tough to stay out of trouble."On why Team Falken Tire has been so strong in endurance races: "We have historically been good in endurance races. The longer the races the more important execution and team work becomes. The Team Falken Tire guys have been great in the pits all year. In an endurance race, the number of stops are increased meaning the overall time in the pits is increased. The less time you can spend in the pits the more successful you are. In Sebring we spent 20 seconds less than all other GT cars in the pits and that was a large reason we were able to get our podium result there."
On the special edition Team Falken Tire Porsche livery: "It will be strange crawling into the Falken Tire Porsche without the normal teal and blue scheme, it has become such a fan favorite over the years. This new scheme is great through. It really allows the fans to be involved with our program on a new level that has not been achieved by us before. I hope it is a representation of how much our fans mean to us."
On the final ALMS race: "I will be very sad to see the ALMS come to a close. I feel like I have grown up in the series and made my home here for a lot of years. It has been a place that I have looked forward to racing, and more importantly, a place I have looked forward to spending my time with friends. It has been an honor for me to be involved with a part of what is sure to become a positive part of sports car history. We have had a couple years where we have been close to a podium at Petit, and to finally get one in the final ALMS race would be great. It would be very special."