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

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