Friday, April 5, 2013

Behind the Scenes of the Falken Tire Podium Weekend at the 12 Hours of Sebring

The 2013 American Le Mans Series race season officially began earlier this month with the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. After months of winter testing and tire development, the hard work of the drivers and crew at Team Falken Tire paid off, bringing home a remarkable third-place finish. Though fast pit stops, strong tires and a solid race strategy, the No. 17 Porsche worked her way up from 12th position to finish third in the demanding 12 hour long endurance event.

As soon as the team arrived at the track, everyone got to work immediately setting up the team paddock and getting the Porsche ready for the final days of testing before practice and qualifying.

While the crew got the car and tires ready, the drivers got to work with their interviews and photo shoots with the ALMS TV and Public Relations crew. With the longer endurance events, teams are required to have an additional driver. Joining Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers for the Sebring 12 Hour was Porsche Factory driver Nick Tandy. Nick fit right in with Bryan and Wolf, and quickly got into the swing of things.

Even after several interviews and photo shoots, the three Falken Tire drivers were in high spirits.  Several of our twitter followers asked if pranksters Bryan and Wolf had any kind of pranks ready and waiting for newcomer Nick. To our knowledge, the troublesome duo behaved and saved their pranks for other team members instead.

The Falken Porsche waits calmly for the final moments of fine tuning before heading out on track.

Inside the control center of the Falken Tire pit box. This year, the team welcomed a new Engineer, Sebastian, to join our other engineer Brian and Team Manager Derrick. These three combined made for a great first race of 2013.

And of course, we wouldn’t be here without these amazing tires! As you can see from Falken’s ALMS Supervisor Brad, Falken is quite excited about tire development.

One thing the Falken drivers and crew always try to do each race event is an organized tour of the paddock area for the fans. At Sebring, the team invited participants of the 10-Tenths Motorsport Forum to come and meet the drivers and get an inside look at the operation at a race weekend.

Sometimes it’s a little tricky getting everyone around the Porsche or inside the trailer, but it’s worth it to let the fans gain special access as the drivers answer questions.

Here Wolf shows the fans inside the cockpit of the Falken Porsche.

Night practice at Sebring always brings out a vast amount of fans. For the first time all season, fans watch these amazing machines race through the corners under the lights of Sebring International Raceway. Here the teams are able to test their final setups before qualifying for the 12 Hour takes place the following day.

It was during night practice that Nick Tandy had his first real taste of Sebring. One of the Sebring Cows stopped by to say hello, and Nick couldn’t resist getting his picture taken with him. Usually in a herd of 10-13, the Sebring Cows have been coming to the Sebring 12 Hour for over 20 years!

Nick Tandy and Wolf Henzler watch on in pit lane as Bryan Sellers puts down some fast laps and tests different set ups on the Falken Porsche.

Crew members also watch on as the Falken Porsche struts her stuff on the practice broadcast. TVs and timing and scoring screens are set up all around the Falken pit box, allowing team members to enjoy the race as well and cheer on their team.

Wolf takes a look at the tires before jumping over the wall for his upcoming stint.

Qazi, a member of the Falken Tire creative department gets some of his first shots of the Falken Porsche the following morning. All of Falken Tire’s ads and videos are created in house in Falken’s headquarters in Rancho Cucamonga, California. These guys are incredible! To see their latest multimedia work, keep reading!

The public appearances never stop! One of the best things about the American Le Mans Series is the accessibility fans have to the drivers and teams.  Bryan, Wolf and Nick spent over an hour sitting in the sun to meet with fans, signing posters, hero cards and giving away Falken Tire swag. Thank you to all the fans that stopped by!

Of course Falken’s favorite cows stopped by! They kept coming around all weekend long to show their support. Thanks guys!

Welcome to the team, Nick! Nick was elated to receive his very own HPI Racing 1/10th remote control model of the Falken Porsche. Want one of your own? Visit!

In their final appointment before race day, Wolf, Bryan and Nick stopped by the Porsche Platz to have a question and answer session with the Porsche Club of America members. Originally booked for only 15 minutes, the drivers ended up staying about 45 due to some really good discussion about the development of Falken’s race winning tires, Sebring and the upcoming sports car merge. The drivers were having such a good time interacting with the fans that they literally had to be pulled out of the tent to head to a team meeting.

Last year, we did a blog about the helmets of the Falken drivers. Here are the three helmets from Sebring. Left to right: Nick Tandy, Bryan Sellers (newer and brighter) and Wolf Henzler.

Race day! Early mornings on race day feel like something out of a movie. The track is quiet, the air is chilly, and the sun has yet to rise. The Falken Porsche sits quietly all alone, just waiting for the legendary event to begin.

The only ladies that can compete with the Falken Porsche for attention. The Falken spokes models come to every Falken Tire Motorsports event to interact with fans, hand out swag and spread the name of the brand. Returning to Falken Tire is Ms. Randyl Dawn (@randyldawn) and new to the team is Ms. Katie Carnes. Welcome, Katie!

While team participated in the final warm up session before the race, the Falken Girls held their own autograph session outside the Falken Tire trailer. The ladies gave away posters, flags, stickers and lanyards the ladies posed for photos with fans. Be sure to keep an eye out for them at the next Falken event you attend!

The pre-race grid allows for ALMS fans to see all the starting cars lined up on the front straight and also pose for photos with the drivers. This happens at every ALMS event, which is just one more reason why ALMS is the best in fan interaction. Twitter follower Kevin (@kevintoy888) was gracious enough to give the team a wolf hat for our very own Wolf Henzler. Since Wolf is usually the one pulling pranks, the team decided to use the hat as a prank on him. We asked this lovely fan, Kayla, to wear the hat and approach Wolf as a crazed super fan. Wolf was a good sport and was thoroughly amused. Thanks, Kayla!

In the final moments before the green flag drops, team members line up next to the car on the front straight. The National Anthem is sung and a quick prayer is said. Once the order to clear the grid is given, the crew heads to the pit box and the car heads out on track for the pre-race pace laps.

It’s race time and Bryan Sellers is all business, waiting to jump over the wall. Team Manager Phil stands in pit lane, waiting to wave in the Falken Porsche for one of the early race pit stops.

Mid race, Wolf is in his gear and ready to go, watching the screens, waiting for his time to jump back into the Falken Porsche.

In a later pit stop, Nick Tandy and a crew member wait to jump over the wall for another pit stop.

The sun is setting and Bryan gets ready for his upcoming stint.

The sun has set, and the Falken crew completes another pit stop. Races can be won and lost in the pit stop, and at the Sebring 12 Hour, the Falken crew was unbeatable in the pits. Of all the GT teams participating in the endurance event, the Falken Porsche spent the least amount of time in the pits. This allowed the drivers to gain an advantage on track, thanks to the speedy and perfectly executed pit stops by the crew.

As Wolf crossed the finish line in third after the team worked their way up from 12th, the crew runs over the wall to cheer him on, celebrating their first podium of the season.

While the car went to technical inspection and the crew started to load up the trailers, it was time for the drivers to head to the podium. Big races like the 12 Hour always draw a large crowd, but the crowd seemed to be much bigger this year, with standing room only as photographers, media members and other drivers waited for the ceremonies to begin.

Like kids on Christmas, the Falken drivers eagerly await their chance to step onto the podium.

What a great way for Falken Tire to start the season! It was an incredible team effort for the Little Tire that Could.

Confetti and champagne go together well. The Falken Tire team looks forward to many more races ending on the podium.

As the drivers leave the podium and head back to the paddock, they’re congratulated by ALMS fans.

After 12 long hours on track the Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR returns to her garage area in the paddock. She may not look as pristine as she did when she left, but twelve hours of dirt, bugs and rubber looks great on her if it means she got a podium finish!

The race may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop working yet. Bryan does his final interview of the weekend with the Falken creative team.

See the final product here:

We had so many fans send in pictures of the Falken Porsche team during the event. Our fans loved being included in our blogs last season, so we’re going to keep it up! Here are the fan photos from the event:

From Adam (@adamhendrick), capturing the speed of the Falken Porsche.

Long time follower Rick (@almsrick) stopped by to say hello several times throughout the event, and also brought his kids by for a quick picture. Thanks, Rick!

Taking advantage of all of Falken’s viewing spots, Amanda (@driftingcarnies) grabbed this shot.

Anthony (@Atflorio) may have not been able to attend the event, but he was representing his favorite team from his desk!

Coming out from turn 17, from K.F. (@jax_cigar_smkr).

From Ken (@easyken1), the Falken crew waits in pit lane during a practice session.

A photographer with a soft spot for Team Falken Tire, John Remus (@johnremus) snapped this one of our lovely lady.

Suzette (@bridgets_mom) snapped this shot of the drivers while they multitask by working on their tans while signing autographs. The Falken creative team is hard at work behind them.

At the end of the weekend, Elliot (@elliottstevens) grabbed this shot of the Falken Tire trailer, ready to head back home.

Loyal fan Erin (@lainey_vb131) stopped by to get her photo taken with Kelly, the Public Relations Representative and Nick. Erin always brings the drivers little treats and presents, for which the team is grateful! Nick spent some time chatting with Erin, earning a new fan. Thanks for the constant support, Erin!

Marshall Pruett (yes, that Marshall Pruett @marshallpruett) tweeted this one to us during the race. Check out the Falken Porsche as she pulls away from the BMW.

Jason (@JasonZais) couldn’t make it to the Sebring event, but he still tweeted a picture of his support!

Bill (@jaxhockey) took this photo in the quiet dark. Artie is here putting the finishing touches on the windshield tear offs. Just like helmet tear offs, when the windshield becomes too dirty, the crew just tears off a sheet of plastic, applied pre-race, to save time from cleaning the windshield in the pits.

From Tim (@nuwave85), the Falken Porsche enjoying a stroll in the sunlight on the legendary road course.

And from our favorite herd of cows (@Sebring_cows), the lovely Falken Ladies.

Just in case you wanted a photo of just our three lovely ladies, here’s a shot from Sport Auto Live (@sportautolive).

From Tire Stickers (@tirestickers), the Falken Porsche goes through some final inspections before the big event.

From Tony (@tonydizinno), the Falken Porsche shining under the lights in pit lane during night practice.

Michael, (@Michaellgoodwin) tweeted us a picture of his swag, thanking us for the autograph session goodies. You’re welcome, Mike!

It was a long winter, but all the hard work paid off. From The Wheel Men (@thewheelmenshow), the Falken Porsche rests in the paddock before being loaded up into the truck.

Thanks to everyone who submitted photos! Next up, we have the Long Beach Grand Prix. We plan on doing more giveaways, appearances and contests, so stay tuned!

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