Team Falken Tire secured its first win with its new 991-based Porsche 911 RSR to cap off the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Petit Le Mans.
They’ll have the opportunity for more in 2015 as the Derrick Walker-run team is set to continue in the GT Le Mans class.
Walker confirmed to Sportscar365 his team’s plans to campaign the lone privateer 991 effort in North America after a 2014 season that saw steady growth from start to finish.
Additionally, Walker will attend as many non-conflicting weekends as possible when he’s not serving as IndyCar’s president of competition and operations.
“For the 2015 schedule, Falken wants to continue and grow its program, so we’ll carry on with the current 991 and tire development, and try to get closer and closer to the podium,” Walker told Sportscar365.
Added Nick Fousekis, Falken Tire Corporation Director, Motorsports Marketing and Events: “This year certainly had its challenges learning a completely new chassis, but the hard work of our tire engineers and the team at Walker Racing lead to our repeat Petit Le Mans class win. We look forward to 2015.”
Next year will mark Walker’s fifth year with Falken. The team won four races with the previous 911 GT3 RSR in the American Le Mans Series from 2011 to 2013, and made strides toward the end of this season in the first year with the 991.
Hopes of a second car joining alongside the expected pairing of Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers, however, remain just that.
“Unfortunately it’s still one (car),” Walker said. “We desperately need a second car, but the RSR program isn’t a cheap date.”
Walker hailed the combination of tire and car development throughout this season, and reaffirmed a long-term commitment.
“Anybody will tell you that when you have to learn a new car, develop the car, and develop tires around the car, which is another dimension, doing it when racing isn’t the way to do it,” Walker said.
“But the 991 came to America relatively late in terms of availability, and as the only customer 991 program in the U.S., we thought it was worth waiting for. We went racing at Sebring and built from there.”
“It’s been a hard road. Sometimes we’re close and others it’s a test weekend. But that’s part of the commitment Falken has made; it’s not short-term, it’s long-term. You know you’re in for the long haul having the 991.
“As you see we’ve got closer to the mark, we’re better here than Austin, had tested here and developed based on last year’s tire which was very good. That’s the strength of the organization.”
Walker said the series Balance of Performance “is what it is,” but also said having the dual view of both an official on the IndyCar side and a competitor on the IMSA one allows him to understand the challenges of trying to get BoP right.
“You have to hope over time that the series adopts very clear procedures where you can see how the whole thing works, so it’s no mystery,” Walker said. “I think you have to give it time, and I don’t think we’ve given it enough time yet.”
Overall, Walker remains happy with the efforts Falken is making against Michelin in GTLM.
“Falken’s a small tire company compared with who we’re trying to beat,” he said. “When we get close or beat them, we’re doing something pretty amazing considering the strength and history of our competitors.”