Bryan Sellers Earns Second-Place Overall in Virginia
Falken Tire Factory Driver/Team Score Highest Finish of 2014 TUDOR Season
Alton, Virginia, August 26, 2014 - Bryan Sellers and Team Falken Tire earned their highest finish of the season in Sunday's Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). The second-place overall finish bettered the season best of fourth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier in the season by the Braselton, Georgia-resident and teammate Wolf Henzler (Germany) in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR. While much of the race was focused on fuel conservation, the final minutes of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race were an all-out fight that rivaled the great finishes of sports car racing.
From the start of the weekend, the No. 17 was quick in practice but anticipating the intense competition of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, the decision was made to focus on a fuel strategy from the onset of the two-hour and 45-minute race. Therefore, Sellers, who had qualified as the fastest Porsche 911 RSR in seventh and started the race, ran conservatively throughout his stint to maximize fuel mileage. Despite the conservation mode, Sellers was able to run as high as sixth before turning the Porsche over to his longtime co-driver, one-hour and 30-minutes into the race.
From there, Henzler made the Porsche flat-six engine as fuel-efficient as possible. As others pitted for fuel, the familiar Falken Tire livery moved up the charts until Henzler found himself in the lead. While Henzler diligently tried to save fuel it appeared a late-race "splash" for E85 fuel to feed the Porsche would be needed to guarantee the car would finish the race. However, with 19 minutes remaining, the caution flew. All concern for making the finish was gone but it was quickly replaced by the threat of the lurking Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia - winner of the previous race at Road America - just behind the No. 17. The green flag waved with six minutes remaining. The Ferrari, quicker than the Porsche on the straights, closed several times, even coming equal to the lone Falken tire-shod entry multiple times. Henzler repeatedly repelled the attacks until the final lap. The Ferrari again feigned a move around the 911 RSR and unlike all the other attempts, Henzler was not able to keep it behind. The red mid-engine machine snuck by to take the win. The No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche crossed the line in second. The best-ever overall finish for the team.
The Alton, Virginia-stop was special in that the 3.27-mile, 17-turn facility was the first time that no prototypes were scheduled to run with the GTLM and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. Therefore, it was the first time in his sportscar career that Sellers has had the opportunity for an overall victory. While the Porsche 911 RSR is the most performance-oriented version of the iconic 911 platform ever derived, regulations preclude it from challenging the race-bred prototypes in most races.
On the podium finish: "This was a great team effort. For all of us at Team Falken Tire, this podium was like a victory. We worked very hard to have a good result here at VIR. We tested for two days previous to the race weekend and did a lot of groundwork to try and get the Porsche as good of a car as possible. We rolled off the truck strong from the very beginning of the weekend and knew we would be strong in the race. It was a great moment for us this weekend, and it has really lifted team morale."
On racing for the overall win: "No matter which class you are racing in, your victory is the only thing that matters. All the classes have such a high level of competition that a win is so difficult to come by. You take every win you ever get and the thought of an overall victory never crosses your mind. I do think, however, that it was very cool to have GT cars be the feature of the race. I think we all delivered, GTLM and GTD cars alike. It was a great show, and I hope everyone enjoyed it."
On Henzler's run: "Wolf had an amazing last stint. He was in a position where multiple things were being requested of him. He was asked to save a ton of fuel early in the stint, and then asked to run at qualifying pace at the end to try and keep the other cars behind. As usual he delivered. I was worried about a lot of things during the race, but one thing I never have to worry about is my co-driver delivering a result. I feel very lucky to have Wolf as a teammate."
A special note to Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz, injured in practice for the Oak Tree Grand Prix: "Team Falken Tire has been welcomed with open arms into the Porsche family, and while Wolf and I are co-drivers, Porsche North America is part of our 'team'. I would like to wish Richard Lietz a fast recovery. We will miss having him at the races until he returns."
The Tudor Championship travels to Austin, Texas next for September 20 Lone Star Le Mans. The two-hour, 45-minute race is the penultimate round of the championship and will pit all the classes on the same track together again.