Falken Tire Factory Ace Continues Bar-Setting Performance with Second 2013 Podium
MONTEREY, Calif., May 14, 2013 - Entering last Saturday's American Le Mans Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS), Bryan Sellers hoped he'd be able to use the track's signature "Corkscrew" turn to lead to pulling the cork on a bottle of celebratory champagne. At the end of four hours of American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón (ALMS) GT class racing, the Braselton, Ga.-resident was able to do just that with a second place finish. The Falken Tire factory driver, teaming in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Germany's Wolf Henzler, captured his second podium finish of the 2013 after leading the first 47-minutes of the third race of the endurance racing season. The success continued to cement Sellers' place among the elite of professional sports car racers in the world today.
The May 11 race maintained a season of strong performances for the 2012 ALMS Most Popular Driver Award-winner. The combination of Sellers, Henzler and Nick Tandy (United Kingdom) raced to a third-place at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. Last month, on the city streets of Southern California, Sellers qualified second in class and led for 26-minutes of the two-hour Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Monterey, Calif.-race, nearly doubled the time at the point of the GT class field for Sellers - who has been behind the wheel for all of the laps the car has enjoyed in the lead in 2013. The three-time ALMS class winner took the top-spot from his second-place starting position at MRLS on the opening lap. He then built a lead of over two seconds while fighting through the most congested track conditions of the multi-class race. He eventually yielded the lead only after a dogged fight. Despite several efforts to recapture first-place between he and Henzler, Sellers' assault would come up less than one-second short as he crossed the finish line in the runner-up position for his best result of the year. The former open-wheel racing champion drove both the opening and closing stints of the race for the Japanese tire manufacturer-owned team.
The 2.238-mile, 11-turn track is much different than the flat, former airfield course at Sebring or the tight, cement wall lined Long Beach street course. MRLS provided the team a chance to show it has found a rhythm on the variety of tracks and race distances that comprises the ALMS season. The success here, as well as the information garnered, will bode well for race and track types ranging from the short Lime Rock natural terrain circuit to the streets of Baltimore where Sellers has won the past two seasons as well as the longer traditional race circuits like Road America and Road Atlanta.
At four-hours in length, the American Le Mans Monterey demanded not only the drivers' greatest skills but the team's as well. As it has all season, Team Falken Tire matched the drivers' performance with their own strategy and pit work. The team's efforts, combined with the tire's strength over the hour-long stints and cool track temperatures, provided Sellers and Henzler with the platform they needed to reach the second-place result.
Sellers will next be on track June 15th at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Ohio-native will be racing the No. 46 Trim-Tex/Fall-Line Motorsports BMW in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC). The team has shown great speed and promise in the GRAND-AM-sanctioned series but has yet to capture its first podium of 2013.
The ALMS now goes on its traditional "Le Mans Break" which will see the series dormant until the July 6 race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The "Break" provides ALMS teams the opportunity to take part in the classic 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Team Falken Tire will not participate in that race allowing Sellers to focus on his CTSCC program with Fall-Line as well as testing opportunities with Falken Tire.
On the American Le Mans Monterey: "I felt like the Team Falken Tire Porsche had a podium finish from the beginning of the first session. We rolled off the truck fairly fast and closer to the pace than we ever have been at Laguna Seca. We were strong all throughout practice as well as qualifying. As soon as we were on the front row in qualifying, the only option for a finish was to come home with a podium. The last stint of the race was a highlight as well as the biggest challenge. I had a BMW behind me the whole last hour of the race and it was very difficult to keep him behind. But it was also a lot of fun."
On the performance displayed during the race: "I feel like it was the most complete endurance race Team Falken Tire has had for sure. We have generally been strong in long races but more due to the strength of our program as opposed to our outright speed. This weekend, we had speed as well as a great team performance. I think it can be attributed to the work that went into our offseason-testing program. It was very successful and it is showing itself each race so far."
On his race strategy: "Things really fell into place at the beginning of the race. I had a plan to try and out-brake the Ferrari on the outside of turn 2. But I was able to plan the drop of the green [flag] a little bit better and I got a jump on him coming to the green. The Falken Tire Porsche was really strong when we were running in the lead. Unfortunately, not quite strong enough to keep the Corvette behind for long.
On the final restart, my only strategy was to try and move forward and win the race. The Vette was the strongest car all day and I knew if I could make a run at him nobody from behind would be able to pass me."
On his performance thus far in 2013: "I think I have been performing in the top category of drivers for quite some time. However, it is often overlooked when the car isn't leading races. Sometimes the best races you'll ever run are the ones no one ever notices because you're fighting the car or coming from behind. With the increased performance of the Falken Azenis race tire this season, it has really made our program much more visible. That has begun to highlight what Wolf and I can, and hopefully will continue to, do. It is all because of the effort of the Team Falken Tire crew and the engineers working on this tire."
On the development of the Falken Tire and its increased performance at multiple types of tracks: "I think it is very important to show the world that we don't want to be a one trick pony. We are capable of more than just a great rain or street course tire. However, more importantly, we have shown ourselves what we can do as a team and as a company. Our outlook has always been, and will continue to be, to perform at our highest level and not worry about what the others are doing or what they think. We can only control ourselves and will continue to push our Team Falken Tire program as hard as possible. And we will continue to hope for good results."
On keeping the early season momentum going through the 'Le Mans Break': "I think what the break does is it gives everyone at Team Falken Tire more motivation to push for the last little bit. We have been so close to being able to win in two of the last three races and we are all hungry for that. It gives us a chance to take a deep breath, reload and hopefully come back after the break even stronger."