Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Heartbreak for Falken Tire at Baltimore Grand Prix


Bryan Sellers has made it to the final round of voting for the 2013 ALMS Most Popular Driver. Click here to vote for Bryan.  

Also, time is running out to vote for Team Falken Tire, as the most influential team/fan favorite in ALMS. To vote, email "Team Falken" to
For Team Falken Tire, hopes were high heading into the American Le Mans Series Baltimore Grand Prix. Defending the double-win streak at the street course, the team worked hard to prepare for achieving a three-peat and being the only GT team to win on the circuit. In the practice and qualifying sessions, the team found the optimum set up, and by warm up on race day, felt confident they had a top three finish, if not a win.

Unfortunately, as the green flag flew, contact between several prototype cars at the front of the field caused a disastrous domino effect. Before the 17 Porsche RSR could cross the start/finish line, driver Wolf Henzler was caught in an unavoidable several car pile-up, ending the team’s race before it began.  Despite the disappointing finish, the team put forth a strong effort and was overwhelmed by support from the city of Baltimore and fans all over the world.

The first day in Baltimore, Falken drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers woke up early to do an interview with Ava Marie from WBAL TV, Baltimore’s NBC affiliate. 

Just like other street courses, the paddock is usually based outside the confines of the track and teams have to wait for the track to go cold and the walls to open in order to get into pit lane.  Teams have to line up 20-30 minutes in advance to ensure they make the 10 minute window they have to access the track and pit lane. 

This gives the teams a little more time to take a few moments to relax before each session. 

With every team arriving in the pits at the same time (as opposed to each class arriving shortly before their session), each load-in brought a flurry of activity to the pit lane. 

With everyone getting into position, the flutter of activity died down.  The car was in the pit, quietly waiting for the session to start.  

Because the team was defending the double win, Baltimore brought more focus and pressure to perform than most of the races on the 2013 calendar. Bryan, Wolf and the team took it all in stride, and worked to perform and get the car to the right set up. 

With the pressure also came increased media attention. Photographers and film crews were ever-present throughout the whole weekend. 

Back at the trailer, Besim brought the Porsche’s steering wheel to Wolf to see how he wanted the map on the steering wheel positioned. Although the drivers know each track well, it’s always helpful to have a point of reference, just in case. 

Back in line again, Wolf and Team Manager Phil shared a few laughs as they waited for the gates to the track to be opened. 

TV Commentator Calvin Fish used the down-time to catch up with Bryan as they waited for the track crossing. 

Since he races in the American Le Mans Series and in Europe, Wolf has different helmets depending on where he races. His ALMS helmet is painted to match the iconic Falken livery. 

Before the second practice session started, Bryan stood in pit lane to do an interview with ESPN’s legendary announcer, Jeremy Shaw. Meanwhile the crew worked on the final preparations for the session. 

At the end of the practice day, Bryan and Wolf walked back to the hotel and used the opportunity to inspect the track on their own. 

On race day, ALMS Supervisor Brad took local VIP tire dealers and their families on a private tour of the Falken Tire support rig as well as the team rig. Falken Tire works hard to thank local tire dealers at every race event, showing them another side of the company. 

At the autograph session, the drivers went through record numbers of posters and hero cards. It appeared everyone wanted a piece of the Falken action!

In the final moments in the garage before heading to the pre-race grid, Data Acquisition Engineer Ricky went over the final bits of data with the Porsche. 

Like a kid in a candy store, team member Mike stopped by the Falken support rig to check out the latest models of tires. 

On the pre-race grid, Crew Chief Alex got help from ALMS officials getting the 17 Porsche GT3 RSR into position. 

At the front of the grid, Wolf, accompanied by Falken Spokesmodel Julie, did a pre-race interview with Greg Creamer. 

On the grid, Wolf found a backup driver in case Bryan was unable to do the driving duties for the day. Spokesmodels Julie and Katie were present to represent Falken on the grid, as well as welcome the newest driver to the team.

Immediately after the green-flag incident, Bryan and the crew watched on in nervous anticipation to see if the Porsche would be able to continue. 

After being cleared from Medical, Wolf retreated to the trailer for a few minutes alone as the team tended to the crippled Porsche. 

Making lemons out of lemonade, Bryan stayed at the track and finished out the race in the ESPN TV booth commentating with Greg Creamer and Jeremy Shaw. Fans from all over tweeted their support and encouragement to Bryan, saying if driving didn’t work out, he’d have a great career in commentating. Although we don’t disagree, we all hope Bryan has many more years of racing ahead of him before needing a fallback career. To watch the broadcast and listen to Bryan's commentary click here.

With only three races remaining and the damage to the 2013 Porsche GT3 RSR, the team was faced with the difficult decision of how to finish the season. To replace the almost-totaled Porsche would prove to be an expensive solution, and to repair the Porsche would be a large undertaking as well. With only two weeks before heading to Round 8 at Circuit of the Americas, the team needed to find a solution fast. Working with American Le Mans Series COO Scot Elkins and Porsche Cars North America, the team decided to convert the retired 2010 Porsche from a display car in the shop lobby back to a racing machine.

With the days counting down, the Walker Racing crew is working around the clock to get the car ready in time for Circuit of the Americas next week. We stopped by the shop last week to take a look at the progress. After putting in long days and working over the weekend, the car is coming along well and the team is ahead of schedule. The engine was fired up yesterday, a day or two earlier than expected. Because we’re working closely with IMSA officials to sort out and meet the regulations, we can’t give specifics, but progress is going well.
Assistant Engineer Brian was looking at the dampers from the 2010 Porsche, checking to see what condition they were in and if they were suitable to run.
Crew chief Alex and fabricator Dan were comparing the bumper of the car to both the 2012 and 2010 under bodies.
Data Acquisition Engineer Ricky was tasked with the job of removing all of the wiring from the 2012 car (pictured) and taking all the working wires back into the 2010 car.
With most of the 2012 Porsche stripped down, Ricky was surrounded by organized piles of wires, each it its own designated pile.

Meanwhile, Artie had the 2010 Porsche up on the lift, prepping it for the complete rebuild that will be necessary.

Last but not least, in the first car bay, Besim was set with the task of preparing the engine for the transition.

The team still has a lot of work to go, but we’ve got the best team in the business to handle this! Next up, the team will head to Circuit of the Americas September 19-21. 

 Before the event, drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler will be doing a meet and greet with our friends from K1 Speed. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the twitter fan photos from the Baltimore Grand Prix:
Always the creative graphic artist, Anthony (@atflorio) suggested that the City of Baltimore give Team Falken Tire the keys to the city.
Brad (@bradsfun) came by before the race for a quick picture with the Porsche.

 L. Mirrielees (@Creshie) on grid with Wolf before the start of the race.

Bob (@DasBobb) took the opportunity at the autograph session to take a quick photo with Wolf and Bryan.
Doug (@DougC81) captured the Porsche waiting in line to cross the track before one of the sessions.
Meg (@FoxieCarrera) stopped by before one of the sessions to get the team working on the Porsche.

As hooziefoozie (@hooziefoozie) demonstrates, it pays to follow! Thanks to Porsche, we had a few Vitesse rides to give away to lucky twitter followers who won our trivia contest.
There may be leaves all over the ground in Jacob’s (@jacobrpoole) photo, but don’t let it fool you! The temperatures were high, as was the humidity. Here, Katie is standing in front of the shop fan trying to cool down.
Ken (@kencolormills) captures the speed of the Porsche on the streets of Baltimore.

Erin (@lainey_vb131) caught a moment between Bryan and Wolf as they shared a laugh over a prank photo they just took.

Marco (@mar_B_ond) wasn’t able to attend the race, but he sent his support with this Forza screen shot.

Taking a break from the heat, Paul (@PaulFregeolle) tweeted us this shot of the Porsche on track as he enjoyed a cool beverage. 

This photo from Jon (@PiJonPi) shows just how tight the corners are on a street circuit.

The fun thing about street circuits is the location of where your paddock can be race to race. Team member Ricky (@RickMahurin) tweeted this photo of the Falken Paddock right next to the M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens!

Doug (@sicmonte) snapped a quick photo on the grid before the fans cleared out and the cars did the recon laps.

The Wheel Men Show (@thewheelmenshow) tweeted us a picture of this new race fan sporting the swag of his favorite team!


  1. Awesome Kelly! Hopefully I'll have a short blogpost coming soon on Bushido! Thanks for using one of my photos :)