When preparations began for the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Team Falken Tire was on the sidelines as its new Porsche 911 RSR was being finished in Germany.<span style="font-size:11.0pt;
The team joined the series for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, scoring a fifth-place finish in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. The season ended on a high note, with a second-place finish at Virginia International Raceway followed two races later with a season-ending victory at Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.
When the 2015 campaign begins with the Rolex 24 on January 24, the team plans to be in the thick of the action. Lead drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers were at Daytona recently for the first test of the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR on the high banks.
“We’ve been taking it easy, building into it,” said team manager Phil Howard, overseeing the first test for Falken Tire at Daytona International Speedway. “We’re happy with the way it’s going so far. Falken Tire has brought several different compounds. Our first concern is safety, making sure we have a tire that can last the distance. Then, we’ll get more concerned with speed.”
Howard is looking to continue the momentum from the end of the 2014 campaign.
“Winning Petit Le Mans was very pleasing,” he said. “There were no lucky breaks involved or anything. The car was fast and reliable – and reliability was an area where we excelled all year.”
Howard was also pleased with the second-place finish at VIR, where Henzler led 12 laps down the stretch before being passed by the Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia of Giancarlo Fisichella on the final lap, only a few turns shy of the checkered flag.
“We knew the Ferrari was going to get us,” Howard said. “It might have been better if he got us three laps earlier – it’s a bit disappointing to lose on the last lap – but we were very pleased with the result. We were also on a bit of a roll at the end of 2013, winning Petit Le Mans. Then with all the changes in the series and adding different tracks to the schedule, we were back to learning again for this past season.”
Sellers and Henzler followed up their fifth-place finish at Sebring by finishing eighth at Long Beach and fourth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We ran through the progression of what we wanted to do,” Sellers said. “Obviously, the banking at Daytona poses challenges that you never see anywhere else. The vertical loading is so high here. We had a range of pressures and cambers that we needed to run through to be able to see which window we are able to operate in, and we were able to effectively do that. Our next step was focusing on moving towards getting a better balance and better speed.
“The longevity tests looked good, and then we made a few improvements to the car working for speed. On Wednesday, we did short runs in the morning and longer runs in the afternoon, gaining data in preparation for the Roar and the Rolex 24.”
Sellers first raced in the Rolex 24 seven times since in 2006, finishing second with Paul Miller Racing in 2011 and third with TRG in 2008.
“I missed the Rolex 24 last year, and it’s good to be back,” Sellers said. “You forget how big this place is when you’ve been away.”
The next official test for the TUDOR Championship will be the Roar Before the Rolex 24, set for January 9-11 at Daytona International Speedway.