Thursday, July 12, 2012

Round 4 at Lime Rock Park Through the Eyes of Wolf Henzler

I landed in Newark, New Jeresy on Thursday afternoon and I took a rental car and drove to Lime Rock Park, which is about a two and a half hour drive through New England.  I wanted to go straight to the track and see everyone and the car, but everybody left by the time I got there! They all probably left early because they didn’t want to see me, or maybe Mr. Derrick Walker, the Program Manager let them go after they finished all their work on the Porsche.  I made it to our hotel in Great Barrington, Massachusetts with a little bit of time to relax before heading back out again. 

That night, Bryan and I had a dinner with representatives from Porsche, the ESPN on-air media, our Program Manager and our Public Relations lady.  Even though I was very tired from my day full of travel, the dinner was good. It was a very interesting conversation for all sides, Porsche, the Falken Tire team and the media. We got to hear their thoughts on the American Le Mans Series and the race team, and we were able to give them more information that they normally wouldn’t have access to. One thing that surprised me about the media was how incredibly well informed they were about ALMS and about us. They really do their homework, and we had some pretty deep discussions, so much so that we didn’t wrap up until about 10:00pm, which is pretty late for a driver, especially me, to be out on a race weekend. 

Usually, I’m traveling from Germany to the west, where there is at least a six hour time difference, sometimes nine hours if we’re racing on the west coast.  Because of that, I’m usually very tired pretty early and try to go to bed as soon as possible. Due to the jet lag, I wake up early in the morning, no matter what time I get into bed. In order to be best prepared for the following day, 8:00pm is a good turn-in time to aim for. 

Friday morning, Bryan and I met up at 8:00am for breakfast before leaving for Lime Rock Park. As a race car driver, I watch what I eat, on race weekends, usually sticking to normal, healthy foods like cereal, cornflakes and toast. 

Once at the track, I saw the car and the Falken Tire crew for the first time since Round 3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  Bryan and I met with our Engineer, John Ward to discuss what we planned on doing for the upcoming practice session, the entire day, and for the weekend as a whole. 

Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler with Program Manager Derrick Walker and Engineer John Ward
The team used the Le Mans break for testing, and I couldn’t attend because I was competing in Le Mans. Bryan and the team were very excited about the progress they made at Mid-Ohio for the balance and tire testing. We were all hoping for a good balance, a good car and good grip for the weekend.  Bryan started the practice session in the car first, and it was not what we expected. On the radio, he told the team there was a lack of balance. The team started to do the normal stuff like tune the car and change the setup, letting Bryan go out each time to test each change. 

After a half hour, I got in for the remainder of the session and I was also not very happy about the balance of the car. After each test session or practice, Bryan and I have a debrief session in the office of the Falken Tire rig where we go through the changes that were better or worse, and talk again about the car, the tires and the handling. Based on our feedback, our Engineer then makes a decision on where we’ll go in the next session. 

The Falken Drivers discussing car set up and tire performance
Each race, the team holds a contest on twitter, usually asking fans to answer a trivia question or create a photo caption, and the winning fan and a friend get have lunch with Bryan and I. Bryan and I try to use our lunches to talk about the car and the set up, but the fan lunch is always very welcome.  It makes the fans very happy and I think they love to do it and meet the drivers one-on-one on track. Sometimes it’s also very interesting because we get to know something about the fans like what they do and why they come to the races. This time, they even gave me local knowledge about the best way to get to the airport after the race. 

Bryan Sellers with Falken Fans Mike and Anthony and co-driver Wolf Henzler
That afternoon, we had an hour of practice time on track with all of the classes in the American Le Mans Series before GT qualifying.  At the beginning of the year in Sebring, Bryan and I went through the list of 10 races and made a schedule for the year for who is qualifying at each race, each getting five races. Lime Rock Park was Bryan’s turn to qualify. After the struggle we had during the first two practice sessions, the qualifying session was not a surprise. Bryan pushed the car to the limit and we qualified 8th. We were a bit disappointed, but as Bryan pointed out earlier, last year, we didn’t look good coming into the race, but did well once the race started. 

We finished out the day at the track with the ALMS Driver, Team Manager and Crew Chief briefing, which happens at every race. The race director again explained the rules about the safety car during cautions, the pass around procedure, and such. There was confusion at the last race at Mazda Raceway, so he went through it all again to make sure we all understood, to eliminate any confusion during the race the next day.

One thing we always do at a race weekend is go out for Mexican at least once during the weekend. We all love it. Is it Mexican necessarily healthy for a race weekend? Why not?! We all have to eat something. So that night, that's what we did. It turns out we also ran into other Porsche drivers eating at the same restaurant too. Everyone likes Mexican.

On the morning of race day, Bryan and I did our usual routine of eating breakfast together before heading out to the track. For the warm up session, the car set up was much better than the day before. Our engineer made a good call and made some positive changes to the car set up. It wasn’t a huge change that was made, but it was obviously in the right direction. Sometimes all it takes is a little change. The temperatures were also much lower on race day, so this may have helped us a little bit during the session. 

The series autograph session took place once we finished our session debrief. Together with our Falken Tire spokes models standing behind us, we participated in the hour long autograph session outside of the Falken Tire rig. It’s our chance to sign stuff for the fans and to talk with them for a few minutes as they work their way through the line. I wish it would be us, but I think the Falken girls get a little more attending during the autograph sessions. Typically, after our session they stick around to sign Falken spokes model posters and meet with fans as well. 

Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler with a young fan at the ALMS autograph session
By the time we signed all the autographs, there was only a small amount of time to eat and rest up before the race. Bryan and I had a quick lunch, even though we didn’t have much time.  While Bryan got ready for his first stint in the car, I went to the PorschePlatz to talk to Porsche fans about our team and the race at Lime Rock Park. I answered their questions for only 20 minutes before I had to rush back and prepare for the race myself. 

Wolf Henzler answering questions at the PorschePlatz at Lime Rock Park
I also had to prepare all of my personal stuff because immediately after the race, I had to head to Newark to catch a flight home. By the time I got to the pits, the car was on the grid and the fans were walking up and down, looking at all the cars. I made my way to the grid, talked to the team members, Bryan and the other drivers.
Wolf Henzler on the Lime Rock grid speaking with Spencer Pumpelly
We had a tough race and couldn’t finish as we expected. We had a problem in the race so we had to come in more often than we planned to and lost two laps because of that. The only thing we can do is keep working hard and test tires and try to get better for the next races.  I took the checkered flag in 7th, did the cool down lap and drove immediately to the paddock.  In order to catch my flight, I had to quickly change, grab my stuff and head to Newark. Thankfully, I made it in time for my flight at 10:00PM.


Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers and Team Falken Tire next compete in the American Le Mans Series at the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport July 20-22. The race will be streaming live on ESPN3 at 11:45am EDT on July 22. The television broadcast will join live an hour later at 1:00PM on ESPN2 .

Falken Tire is giving away a Porsche 911 Carrera.  Fans can have their chance at winning by clicking ‘Like’ Falken Tire on Facebook to enter by October 21, 2012 at

We asked Falken Fans at Lime Rock and watching at home to submit your Falken Tire photos. Here they are! Thanks to everyone who submitted pics!

From Bob (@Bobsters987), Here is Wolf exiting the pits

  From Brett (@bwass24), here’s the #17 Porsche on track at Lime Rock Park 

From Chris (@c_lytle), here’s the #17 Porsche next to the patriotic Muscle Milk P1 car
From Adam (@jetsetsonic): The Falken Porsche looking beautiful on track
From Robin (@LINKZ) watching at home, here’s the Falken Porsche maintaining position

From Ken (@Kencolormills) Reminding you, with our series sponsor, Tequila Patron to please drink responsibly! 
And lastly, from Robert (@RReinckens): the Falken in a fury of speed

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