A near-miss at the most recent TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Virginia International Raceway could have left Team Falken Tire devastated, but instead it provide a needed boost to its 2014 season.
The runner-up finish achieved by Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler in the No. 17 Porsche 911 RSR was the team’s first podium result of 2014, and also marked its first top-five finish since Monterey back in May (fourth place).
“For us, VIR was certainly a victory,” Sellers told Sportscar365. “We ended up second but it was proof as to how the season has actually gone, that people may not had seen. When you look back to the last stint, outside of the Ferrari, Wolf was the fastest car on track. But there was no way to hold him off once he got to us. It showed our potential.”
If the Derrick Walker-led team can follow-up with another podium this weekend, it would mark the first time in its history it will have achieved back-to-back podium finishes. This never happened from 2010 to 2013 in the American Le Mans Series, despite four victories.
In the several months since Monterey, the Porsches have gone through a midseason BoP adjustment (1 mm larger air restrictor, plus additional splitter and fuel capacity increases) and the team has further developed the newer 991-spec RSR with the Falken tires with some additional testing.
The team started the year a bit behind the factory Porsche North America effort, having taken delivery later and also missing the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
As Henzler explained, it’s been a season-long process to get to this point.
“The adjustments were needed to bring us back in competition, but it was a small change. We couldn’t really feel it,” Henzler said. “We tested at VIR and we said, ‘It doesn’t feel so much better in the Esses,’ but it gave us the last bit we needed to come back against the other cars.
“The midseason, you could see a trend of us getting better. We were very good at Mosport and Indianapolis. Road America we struggled but we knew we’d be good at VIR. You can clearly see it’s going up and getting better. We did a lot of work on tire testing on the new 911 RSR, and we finally found something we hit on for the rest of the season.”
The team looks to finish the last two rounds of the season on a high note, and aid in Porsche’s quest for the Manufacturer’s Championship.
Entering Circuit of the Americas this weekend, Porsche leads Chevrolet by just two points (276-274), and has four potential top points-scoring entries instead of two, for the other four manufacturers in GT Le Mans.
After COTA, Falken heads to Petit Le Mans, where it scored its most recent victory, an upset triumph with a rebuilt, backup 2010-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the car’s and the ALMS finale last October.
Sellers confirmed the team will run three drivers at Petit Le Mans. Marco Holzer joined the pair at Sebring, but following his recent reassignment to become a test and development driver for Porsche, it remains to be seen whether he’ll reprise the role.