Round Two of the 2013 American Le Mans Series took place earlier this month in sunny Long Beach California. Team Falken tire showed incredible strength and progress all weekend long. Bryan Sellers qualified the No. 17 Porsche in second place, stating afterwards that the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the tires Falken Tire spent all winter developing were the best they had been. As is the case with the Long Beach Grand Prix, the race was filled with competitive racing and several bouts of contact. During his stint, Bryan was pushed down the charts, suffering contact from two different competitors. In Wolf Henzler’s stint, the No. 17 Porsche had unfortunate contact with another car, and after receiving a stop and hold penalty, Falken Tire finished 10th in the GT class. Although it was a disappointing end to a strong week, Team Falken Tire is pressing on and making the final preparations for Round 3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next week.
Long Beach is one of the two tracks on the ALMS schedule that Team Falken Tire considers home. For home tracks, race teams usually have their event schedule filled with car showings, public appearances and partner events. This year, Team Falken Tire returned to Circle Porsche in Long Beach for a private gathering. The parking lot of Circle Porsche was filled with stunning Porsches of every kind, and hundreds of guests were in attendance.
Back at the race track, Falken team member Mo helps the towing company load up the Porsche. Because of the low ride height on the RSR, loading up the car is a slow, meticulous process. After accompanying the Porsche on many public appearances, as well as many other race cars throughout his years, Mo has become an expert in making sure our leading lady makes it safely to each event.
Inside, hundreds of guests were in attendance to see the Falken Porsche as well as the unveiling of the new Porsche Cayman. By the end of the night, the showroom was completely packed with Porsche enthusiasts.
Our partners at HPI racing joined for the festivities and even brought some of their Falken Tire RC cars with different liveries. The response to the Falken Tire liveried Porsche 911 GT3 RSR has been extremely successful. HPI racing has been working at full speed to keep up with the demand of the 1/10th scale remote control race car.
Bryan and Wolf took a few minutes to sign hero cards, posters and hand out swag. If course, they also couldn’t resist meeting their fans too.
After a successful night, it was time to load the Porsche back up again, under the watchful eye of the crew.
Set up day at Long Beach is always interesting, due to the confined paddock space. With ALMS, IndyCar, World Challenge and Indy Lights, it can be difficult to fit so many race series in one paddock, especially on a street course. Paddocks were spread out everywhere around the street circuit, but quarters were still tight. This set up day was also particularly interesting due to the weather hitting the Midwest and the airlines that were suffering from computer issues. Several Team Falken Tire crew members were stranded in Indianapolis during the set up day, leaving the other crew members to handle the paddock and car. As with any great team, the crew worked together and everything was ready in time.
For the casual race fan, the ALMS paddock can be overwhelming. There are so many different types of cars and classes that finding a particular team is sometimes a struggle. To enhance the fan experience, ALMS provided all race teams with a paddock flag, listing the team name, logo and what class they belong to. Here, Mo looks like he’s going to battle as he sets up the paddock banner.
As the crew set up the paddock outside, Wolf did some preparations of his own, getting his helmet ready for the event ahead. Most people don’t really think about how gross a helmet can get after multiple races, but even helmets need a deep cleaning. Here, Wolf was putting all of the freshly cleaned padding back into his helmet.
The final item on the schedule for the day was the track walk. Before every race event, participants have the opportunity to walk the race track to inspect it and discuss strategy. Tracks change over time, and especially with street courses, it is crucial for the drivers and engineers to inspect every inch and turn of the course.
At Long Beach, Bryan celebrated his fifth year with Falken Tire. Through the years, he has been instrumental in the growth and development of the race team. He couldn’t do it without a great team to work with, including Team Manager Derrick Walker, Engineer Brian Junger, Tire Engineer Yoshi Yasuda, and Engineer Sebastien Constans.
With the track walk and the paddock set up complete, Wolf and Bryan inspect the inside of the RSR. With each race, different changes are made and it’s imperative that the drivers are comfortable and aware of the adjustments. For this race, the RSR was also loaded up with cameras from the Falken Tire creative department. Follow us on twitter to keep an eye out for some exciting videos from inside the Porsche (@FalkenALMS).
Despite the cramped paddock size, the pits at Long Beach are fairly spread out, leaving the team sufficient room. Other race events can be very cramped, making pit stops under cautions very hectic.
Sebastien, Brian, Derrick and Bryan watched on as Wolf took the car out during the practice session.
After every session, Wolf and Bryan immediately start discussions on the performance of the car and tire as well as track conditions. It’s photos like these that are perfect for our caption contests!
During the practice day, the IMSA officials went through pit lane to make sure every team set up their pit box according to series regulations.
Following practice, the team took the car back to the paddock to make the final adjustments before qualifying. With only two hours on the track, they had very little time to dial in on the proper set up.
No, we didn’t catch Lee taking a nap under the Porsche. If a crew member is always missing in action, they can usually be found working under the car.
After the crew finished additional set up changes for the Porsche, Bryan climbed in to work with the team to make sure they had all the feedback they needed.
Every year at Long Beach, Team Falken Tire joins forces with Racers Who Care. RWC brings in children from local elementary schools and connects them with drives and race teams. At Long Beach, Bryan and Wolf meet up with the kids to speak to them about pursuing your dreams, living a healthy life, and of course Falken Tire!
Even the parents took part in the visit, asking plenty of good questions about the drivers and team.
Back in the paddock, the crew took the car to technical inspection. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed how tight the IMSA specifications and regulations are for competitors. It’s important that the crew brings the car into tech before qualifying to make sure the car is legal. In years past, teams have lost their qualifying positions due to cars being inspected and deemed illegal after the session.
Being the “celebrities” of the race team, usually the drivers always have someone around. Falken photographer Jesse caught up with Bryan as he finished getting ready for qualifying.
Before every race event or practice session, there is a calm before the storm. The team has headed to pit lane, the fans have left for their seats, and the drivers are left alone to mentally prepare.
….or make business calls.
Bryan qualified the #17 Porsche in second, and the day was done. Race morning was spent greeting local tire dealers and Falken Tire partners. Then came one of the best parts of the weekend: The autograph session. Long Beach is a very popular event and the fans came out in large numbers to meet the drivers and pick up team swag.
On race day, Wolf and Bryan teamed up with Bryan Herta Autosport to do a joint IndyCar and ALMS tweetup with Josef Newgarden. Twitter followers were invited to stop by the IndyCar Fan Village for a question and answer session with the drivers.
There was a large amount of fans, most of which were meeting Bryan and Wolf (and the Falken Girls) for the first time.
Meanwhile, back at the paddock, the Porsche flirted with fans before the pre-race grid.
And our lovely Falken Spokesmodels Randyl (@RandylDawn) and Julie (@JulieMGalindo) were available to sign posters and give out swag as well.
The ALMS paddock is technically outside the race track. Whenever teams have to cross the track into pit lane, they have to wait until the track is cold and the officials open the gates to let them in. Some of the teams wait in line an hour beforehand so they can be sure to cross over in time. This is what the line looked like before the pre-race grid. It’s so packed you can barely make out the Falken Porsche in the top right corner.
IMSA officials and Falken crew members Brad and Artie position Bryan and the Porsche on the grid.
As the National Anthem was sung and the teams lined up on the grid, Bryan popped open the door to cool down the Porsche as he waited for the recon laps to begin.
Meanwhile, Julie and Randyl posed for photos.
With Bryan’s stint almost complete, Wolf waited on the pit lane wall to jump into the car.
Again, the Falken Tire crew did an excellent job during the pit stop. In Sebring, they topped the charts as the GT team with the least amount of time in pit lane, and in Long Beach, they again showed excellence in pit lane.
After a long race, both Bryan and Wolf still had to conduct interviews with the Falken Tire creative team. On the other side of the truck, the crew packed up the rig and the car, ready to head home after a week in California.
This week, Team Falken Tire returns to California for Round 3 of the American Le Mans Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Visit falkentire.com and alms.com for more information. Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler will be making appearances at the Porscheplatz (all fans are welcome) at 9:30am on Friday, May 10th, and at the ALMS Fan Forum in the Mazda Paddock at 1:00pm.
Thank you to the Falken Fanatics who sent in their photos from Long Beach! Tweet us your Falken Tire picture at the next race event and we'll include it in our post-race blog!
Also be sure to follow our team on twitter:
Falken Tire: @FalkenTire
Team Falken Tire: @FalkenALMS
Bryan Sellers: @BryanSellers
Wolf Henzler: @Wolf_Henzler
From our friends at @BatteryTender, the Porsche as she waits to enter tech inspection.
@Core8610 snapped this shot of the Porsche speeding through a corner.
Danny (@Dancald10) snapped a shot of the Porsche turning onto Pine Avenue with a Corvette in pursuit.
From Falken Tire's own Joyce (@JoyceLex), Julie, Randyl, Bryan and Wolf at the autograph session
Watching from home, Mikey (@MikeyP155) took a screen shot of another speedy Falken Tire pitstop.
Loyal twitter follower Tracy (@RosenRakuen) shared this shot of the Porsche in tech inspection.
Our leading lady strutting her stuff in front of the fans, by @Someday0806.
Porsche Club of America member Chet (@csx556) came out to the Porsche dealership to see our sexy lady.
Nicholas (@nicphillips) stopped by early one morning to check out the team.
Patrick (@twincheckers98) couldn't attend the race, but he still showed support via his phone. Thanks Patrick!