Thursday, September 27, 2012

Round 9: ALMS at Virginia International Raceway

UPDATE: Team Falken Tire has made it into the top five in the final round of voting for the American Le Mans Series "From the Fans" award. At the 2012 ALMS Banquet following, Petit Le Mans, the "From the Fans" award will go to the team or person that has had the biggest impact on ALMS and Sports Car racing. If you feel that is team Falken Tire, we would be honored if you clicked here to submit your vote.

Round 9 was the first time that the American Le Mans Series had visited Virginia International Raceway. Many teams had the opportunity earlier to take part in the series test at the 17-turn, 3.27 mile road course, but Team Falken Tire was not one of those teams. At the time of the test announcement, Falken was already booked to do testing at a different track, and we found ourselves with some catch up work to do upon arrival for the race event.

Both Bryan and Wolf had raced at the track previously and with them brought a good amount of track knowledge. The race didn’t go as well as we hoped, but now we’re putting all of our focus into Petit Le Mans October 20th. The 10 hour (or 1000 miles) endurance race will be a true test of race teams, and we’re sure to expect some serious competition from the GT class. Hope to see you there!

 And now, the behind the scenes look at our weekend at Virginia International Raceway.

Paul Newman once said, “If there’s a heaven on Earth, it’s VIR.” Simply put, VIR is a beautiful track for racing and spectating. The track opened in 1957, but closed down for almost 25 years from 1974 to 2008. Vintage Sports Car racer Harvey Siegel transformed the track, repaving and widening the road course that we know to love today. The VIR staff did an excellent job organizing the event, even offering shuttles for fans to make their way around the track. 

Upon arriving at the track, there was one small problem for the team:  not only was the paddock not paved, but it was basically sand. To ensure the No. 17 Porsche passes IMSA Technical Inspect and meets all of the proper requirements, the team had to find a way to make the paddock level. The solution was to dig out four strategically placed squares into the sand, and fill with a cement mixture. 

After drying overnight, the cement blocks worked perfectly. The crew was able to put the car on the scale pads and meet the right technical requirements. Other teams in the paddock with the same issue took notice and followed suit with the cement as well.
Mo and Brad ready the battle flags! We want to make sure when our fans are wandering the paddock, our set up is easy to find.

While the guys work on set up, Mike gives the Porsche a nice polishing up.
Thanks to Muc-Off for making such great cleaning products for us! We couldn’t get the sports car looking this good without them!
With set up finished, Team Manager Phil Howard gathers up the crew for a quick meeting to make sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities for the race event. 

Upon arriving at the track, Falken Driver Bryan Sellers sits down with engineer Brian. Sometimes the drivers will spend hours a day pouring over data and numbers, constantly searching for those areas where the team can find extra speed.
Porsche Factory driver Wolf Henzler picks up a copy of the News Record to read about co-driver Bryan and his early years in racing. Did you miss the article? You can find it here.

And then it was time to head out on track! The Falken Tire crew did a great job staying focused on the task at hand and trying to make up for the time we didn’t get to test on the new ALMS track.
While Bryan Sellers talks with Engineer John Ward, Engineer Brian stays focused on the data coming in from Wolf’s current session on track. In our pit box, there are usually about 16 TV and computer screens showing data.
Brandon hangs up the fuel hose after a pit stop. The American Le Mans Series is the global leader in green racing. The organizers are consistently researching cleaner ways to let the sport continue as well as be kind to our environment.
Following the session and before heading back to the office in the Falken Tire rig, the drivers bring their immediate post-session thoughts to the team and tire engineers. 

Then they migrate back to the office where they look over the data and compare it to the drivers’ sentiments.
Meanwhile, the crew wastes no time getting back to work on the car set up.  According to Bryan, on average, the team makes two changes every five laps on a typical practice day. Once the session is complete, the amount of work that needs to be done after the session depends on the changes that were made on track and how effective each change was. 

Here, Engineer Brian is dyno-ing the dampers for the Porsche, which is a way of rating the dampers. The dyno gives Brian graphs of damper force verses velocity, allowing him to see how everything performs before taking the car on track.
Race day at VIR had perfect weather conditions, which was fine with us. After the dominating performance in the rain at Mid-Ohio last year, Falken fans always root for it to rain on race day. Now that we have two wins in the dry, we know we can win, even on sunny days.

With another race came another Falken twitter trivia contest winner. Scott (@sbeuse) and friends came by the rig for a tour of the rig with Wolf. Wolf’s tour went a little long, so we invited Scott and his friends to come back for the rest of the tour the next day.
Crew member Brad picked up where Wolf’s tour left off, and Scott and friends got to see the Porsche up close as Brad answered all of their in-depth questions. ALMS fans know their stuff!
During one of the practice sessions, Bryan was driving the Porsche and had to go off course to avoid contact. The Porsche pulled into the pits with a front end full of grass and dirt. Here, the Falken crew is using an air hose to get the last of the grass out of the car. 

Inside the Falken Tire pit box, the team uses a red flag to discuss the current car and tire set up.

 At the conclusion of the session, Team Manager Phil Howard runs practice pit stops. 

Crew chief Mike and Lee working hard on race prepping the No. 17 Porsche.
The ALMS TV crew stops by for another interview with Bryan. You can check out the ALMS YouTube page to see the videos that feature the Falken drivers and Porsche.
 Bryan and Wolf have a quiet chat about the upcoming race. Earlier in the season on our blog we gave you a deeper look into their relationship as co drivers and friends. At VIR, a race fan asked how the two settle disputes or disagreements about the car. Our answer? When it happens, we’ll let you know. These two are both so in tune with each other and know their stuff that it’s very rare to see them disagree on something. We’ll guess that they rock-paper-scissors it out.
With just a couple hours to go until the green flag on race day, Bryan and Wolf took a break from the meetings and interviews to participate in the ALMS autograph session. The line of Falken Fanatics looking for autographs stretched down the paddock. We met so many race fans who came out to show their support, meet the drivers and get signed Falken swag. Hope to see you all sporting the swag at Petit Le Mans next month!
And of course, our lovely Falken Spokesmodels Melanie and Brittney were available to sign autographs as well. Even the Boy Scouts of America stopped by to meet the ladies.

On the ALMS grid walk, the series gave fans the opportunity to walk on the front straight and see the entire field of cars up close. Several fans stopped by to introduce themselves and grab shots of the Falken Porsche.
The Falken Tire crew during the first pit stop in the four our endurance event. Per ALMS regulations, no work can be done during the fueling process, but participants are allowed to do their driver change. As soon as fueling is complete, the tire change and any other work on the car is allowed.

As Bryan is in the final minutes of his race stint, Wolf watches the timing and telemetry before taking the wheel of the Falken Porsche.

The sun is slowly setting and Bryan waits on pit wall for his final stint. He is not allowed to jump over the wall until the Porsche comes to a stop in pit lane.
The race is over, but the team still has work to do, tearing down the paddock and loading up the rig for tomorrow morning’s departure.
Another race weekend is complete and now the team is putting all efforts into the final round in the 10 hour or 1,000-mile 15th Annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. 

And here are the fan photos from Round 9 at Virginia International Raceway! Thanks for your submissions!  

The wider body of the Falken Porsche is certainly getting some extra attention this year. Photo from Chris (@cjensen1222).
Rachel (@rach952) snapped this one afternoon as the crew worked on the No. 17 Porsche.

With perfect timing, Josh (@joshdorsey90) grabbed this shot of the Falken Porsche as another car in the field went off course.

@lindelof captured the Porsche as she sped away from a GTC car in the early turns at VIR.

From @skinkyl0u, Bryan Sellers races into Oak Tree.

From Matt (@mattblasi), the Falken Porsche waits to read onto the pre-race grid.

Rich (@silvaspot) captures the speed of the Falken Porsche with Wolf behind the wheel.

 From Sang (@sangbehr), fans at VIR watch as Falken races by.

Sarah (@sarahpostale) caught the Porsche in a quiet moment in the VIR paddock. 

Porsche enthusiast Paul (@PaulFregeolle) was one of the fans who took advantage of the pre-race grid when he snapped this shot.

Thank you again to all the fans who showed up at VIR and who sent their support online. We hope to see you at Petit Le Mans! Visit for event information.

Falken Tire Information:
- Do you want to be included in a Falken Tire blog during the off season? We want to dedicate a future blog to Falken Tire artwork and graphic designs from YOU, our fans! Start working on your pieces now and once the season is over, we'll tell you where to send your piece!

-  Did you miss the VIR race? Not to worry! You can watch it here, thanks to the staff at ALMS.
- The journey from our race ending crash at Road America to our win at the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge was a difficult one. Watch this powerful video to see the dedication of the team management, drivers and crew as they refuse to accept defeat and earn their first win of the 2012 season.
- Falken is giving away a new 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera. Click here to enter the sweepstakes!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Round 8: Baltimore Belongs to Falken Tire

Wow. What an event. We think it’s safe to say that Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Team Falken Tire management have the downtown streets of Baltimore figured out.  For the second consecutive year that the American Le Mans Series has held an event on the downtown street circuit, Team Falken Tire remains the reigning champions. The previous Round at Road America was the low point for our team, when the #17 Porsche’s race ended early after losing a tire and spinning into the wall at the Kink. As our fans saw in our previous blog, the team rushed to repair the Porsche in time to defend the 2011 Baltimore win. To return to Baltimore, charge up the field from seventh to lead 62% of the laps and take home the win was a sweet victory for the team.  

Wolf avoided the first lap incident in turn one to work his way up to the first position before handing the car over to Bryan, who worked tirelessly to hold the position, putting on one of the best shows ALMS fans have seen all season. “If it was me last year at Mid-Ohio, it was Bryan’s race today,” said beaming co driver Wolf Henzler.

The fans at Baltimore were some of the most enthusiastic we’ve seen all season. There was an ever-present crowd around our trailer in the ALMS paddock all weekend long, and so many twitter followers and forum participants stopped by to meet the team.  Round 9 is this week at Virginia International Raceway, a first for ALMS, but not for drivers Wolf and Bryan.

Here’s recap of our race winning weekend at Baltimore:

 These two young fans were the first two fans to come see the car and team at the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge. “Want to make money in sports?” jokes Team Manager Phil Howard. “Play baseball.” 

ESPN reporter Kelli Stavast interviewing Wolf during a practice session. One of the perks of returning to an event defending a race win is that the media wants to hear the team and how they plan on defending the race win. To promote the team and the brand, it’s essential that the drivers and team members partake in interviews. At Baltimore, it felt like TV crews and reporters were always present in the pits and paddock, watching to see if Falken could once again dominate the street course. 

Following the first practice session, it was clear that the track needed some work, which is what the drivers and Team Falken Tire Team Manager Derrick Walker and Engineer John Ward are discussing here. The chicane that was used to slow the track down in 2011 had been removed, causing the cars to get some serious air after roaring over the railroad tracks. Later, the track was ground down and the chicane was put back in. Although the fan feelings were mixed about the chicane, both Wolf and Bryan as well as many of the other ALMS drivers were pleased with the change.  “The chicane was the right choice to preserve the life of the cars,” said Bryan. 

Leo Portante of “Drive” interviews Derrick Walker about the bumpy track conditions for both ALMS and IndyCar at Baltimore. “It’s not that the place is that bumpy, but the way it’s configured, it needs a little more work to make it raceable,” said Derrick. To see the full interview, click here and start at the 3:32 mark.

Taro Koki and GT Channel also stopped by to film Falken Tire all day on race day. Stay tuned to see their exclusive video!

“Hey, whatcha guys doin’?” After one of the first sessions of the weekend, Wolf visits the crew as they work on the setup of the Porsche. Maybe we should start putting him to work…

Twitter Superfan Doug (@sicmonte) participated in the Austin Hatcher Foundation’s twitter auction and won this print of Falken’s 2011 win at Baltimore, signed by Bryan and Wolf. Thanks for supporting a great cause, Doug!

Representatives from the Wounded Warrior project came by to say hello to the team, and Bryan offered to give them an inside look of the car and explain technical features like the plethora of buttons on the steering wheel.

With a steering wheel like this, you definitely want to keep both hands on the wheel. No texting and driving here!

Wolf and Bryan always try to take time for the Porscheplatz, where they get to speak with members of the Porsche Club of America. The crowd for this event’s Porscheplatz was the largest we’ve seen all season, and the drivers were asked a multitude of questions. After wrapping up, a crowd surrounded them for autographs. Bryan and Wolf realize the importance of making time for the fans and stayed until everyone received an autograph. What classy guys!

Full House! Sharing the pits with IndyCar made for tight quarters but cooperation from both sides made it work well.

 The sun sets on another day at Baltimore, but that doesn’t mean the team is done for the day. The crew worked into the night, prepping the car for the next day’s race.
Mike and Bessim get ready to put the transmission back in the Porsche. Good thing they work out, because those things definitely aren’t light weight!

Burning the midnight oil under the Falken Porsche.

You can always be sure that Wolf is up to no good. Sometimes the drivers head into the trailer for meetings, to change, or relax. Other times, they’re covertly taking pictures of the outside world. 

Twitter contest winner Doug and friends won a private tour of the Falken rig. Bryan showed them inside the race car and the rig, while giving insider info about the team. It pays to be a twitter follower of @FalkenALMS!

Melanie on the Baltimore Grid with the Falken Porsche. There’s always a crowd surrounding these two when there’s a fan walk on the grid.

The Falken Tire engineers watch on as the Falken Porsche leads. During the race, the tire data is being monitored at all times. 

Wolf’s reaction the moment his co-driver crossed the finish line.  He couldn’t wait to greet his teammate and commend him on holding the top position to take the win.

The area surrounding the podium was completely packed with series officials, media, drivers and fans. The crowd erupted into cheers when Bryan and Wolf made their way through the pack. 

Sweet, sweet victory for the second year in a row for Team Falken at the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge. 

After the podium, photos and interviews, Bryan and Wolf still take the time to pose with a young fan outside of the media center. 

Thanks to all of the fans who were there to support us on location, online on the forums and on twitter. We couldn’t do it without all of your support! And with that, here are the twitter submitted fan photos from the event!

Matt (@mattastic247) grabbed a screenshot of the Porsche in mid-air. “Jumping over the railroad was too much,” said Wolf. “It’s a good thing for the fans, but when you can avoid it, you should and use the chicane. It’s still a hard hit to the car, but it’s also a safety issue.”

Sang (@sangbehr) also snapped this shot of the Falken Porsche attempting to levitate over the street course. 

Eric (@teglerwrites) stopped by after the race to snap this picture of the winning Porsche while the team started to pack up. 

David (@daivedchu) grabbed this shot of Wolf in the media center as he waits for his post-race interviews. 

Frank (@jetfrankfrank) captured the speed of the Porsche on track with Camden Yards in the background in this shot. Definitely one of our favorites of the weekend.

If you were willing to take a walk, the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge had some great views for the fans, letting them get pretty close to the action. Here, Josh (@joshdorsey90) got the #17 Porsche as she made it into pit lane. 

Here’s another great shot showing the speed of the #17 Falken Porsche through the spectator fence. Thanks Stephen (@stephenminnig) for the submission!
Another perspective of the Falken Porsche heading into pit lane, from Brandon (@bosmpp).

Chicanes, chicanes, chicanes. Superfan Doug (@sicmonte) gets the award for most photos and tweets leading up to and during the weekend. We lost count once he hit several hundred. Hope you have a good data plan, Doug. 

One of the few shots of the Porsche that’s not high up or behind a fence. Thanks Rich (@SilvaSpot) for submitting! 

Jessica (@jessicadebray) snapped this one as Wolf pitted and handed over the wheel to Bryan.

Watching from home, VP of Marketing at Falken Tire, Andrew (@andrewhoit)  sent us this screen shot of Wolf’s interview during the final caution of the race with co-driver Bryan Sellers upfront, expertly holding off Oliver Gavin in the Corvette. 

Check out that ride height! This picture from Michael (@michaellgoodwin) shows how close the Porsche really is to the ground. Imagine going over those bumbs at high speed being that low to the ground. Ouch! 

Brian (@TheBigB83) submitted this picture of his buddy Matt (@MattieL89) with Falken Spokes models Melanie (@MsMelanieT) and Brittney (@BrittneyLeigh00) 

Doug (@theDougCee) and Matt took a moment to enjoy some Falken shade and seating in the paddock. 

Of course, the other big news of the weekend was the announced merge of the American Le Mans Series and GrandAm starting in 2014. Here are the official statements from Falken Tire Corp and Team Falken Tire Team Manager Derrick Walker.

Falken Tire: "We greet today’s announcement with a sense of both excitement and wonderment. While having no experience with Grand-Am, we have been nothing but pleased with the guidance of the team that runs the American Le Mans Series and trust that they have the best interest of sports car racing for the fans, manufacturers and competitors in mind. Our hope is that the new series debuting in 2014 is truly a combination of the best of both series incorporating fantastic GT racing, technologically progressive prototypes and open tire competition across a broad geographic schedule. We look forward to the final season of the ALMS in 2013 as it is known today and the bright future of sports car racing in the US starting in 2014. At this time, we will wait to see what developments come about in the coming months while the new product is put together."

Derrick Walker: “Overall it's a good thing providing the new governing body of Sports Cars seriously make an effort to retain the best of the best. Both series have a lot to offer, so for me, it's a chance to man a really great sports car series. I would like to see them merge as many series as possible into a manageable number of classes and try not to leave anybody behind including suppliers such as Falken. Maybe it will take a few years to truly merge them all into a reasonable number but leave nobody behind.”

See you at Virginia International Raceway!

September 13-15 2012
Tune-in Details:
Television Broadcast:
9/16/2012 at 5:00 pm EDT on ESPN 2
Live Streaming:
9/15/2012 at 2:15 pm EDT on ESPN 3
Live Qualifying:
9/14/2012 at 3:25 pm EDT on ESPN 3