That's a Wrap: Bryan Sellers Captures Emotional Petit Le Mans Win in ALMS Finale
Falken Tire Factory Driver Ends 2013 and ALMS with Hometown Win at Road Atlanta
Braselton, Ga., October 20, 2013 - With the spotlights blazing around Road Atlanta, local racecar driver Bryan Sellers drew the curtain on the 2013 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón season with a victory in the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans. On one of the biggest stages in sports car racing, the Braselton, Ga.-resident overcame constantly changing weather conditions and the pressure of a local and international audience to capture Team Falken Tire's first win of 2013, the fourth of Sellers' career. To better the best GT competition in the world, the Falken Tire factory ace and co-drivers Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Nick Tandy (United Kingdom) had to maximize every lap in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR while the team had to perform with equal precision to capture the final race of the 15-year ALMS era of sports car racing.
After qualifying the Team Falken Tire Porsche sixth on the grid, Sellers was called-on to start the special-liveried No. 17 on Saturday. When the sun rose over the North Georgia Mountains on race morning, it was cloaked in a mask of grey storm clouds. While the rain was never a significant downpour, it was enough to soak the track requiring the wet-weather Falken Azenis rain tire at the start and several other times during the 1,000-mile or ten-hour race. Even as Sellers took the green flag for the 1,000-mile race, he quickly realized the track was dry enough to return to the quicker Falken racing slick. The team changed tires on lap one setting a precedent of back-and-forth tire changes for the entire field based on the constantly changing weather conditions.
Despite starting off on the back-foot and at the back of the field after the stop, Sellers gained a number of positions before handing the car to Henzler in the top-10. Henzler would move the car even further towards the front before relinquishing the ride to fellow Porsche factory driver Tandy. The routine would continue with Sellers making his way back into the car in sequence. Each driver made a significant contribution to leading 127 of 375 laps.
The win gave Porsche its 116th victory in the ALMS and Falken Tire its fourth. It also continued Sellers streak of at least one victory in the GT class dating back to 2011. Team Falken Tire captured podium finishes in each of the three ALMS endurance races (four hours in length or greater) this season. Sellers, Henzler and Tandy opened the season with a third-place at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Fla.) while Sellers/Henzler ran to a second-place in four-hours of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
While the Petit Le Mans will continue into the future - the 17th running is set for October 4, 2014 - this year's iteration signified the last running of the race under ALMS sanction. The Braselton-based series will merge with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2014 to create the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The first race of the season will be the January 25-26 Rolex 24 At Daytona (Fla.).
On winning Petit Le Mans: "It is quite possibly the best win I have ever had in my career. We have been very lucky to have a couple of really great wins for Falken Tire but this one, first being Petit Le Mans and secondly being the last ALMS race, is very special! It hasn't sunk in yet. I have had a lot of text messages congratulating us and they all seem surreal. It is like I've got someone else's phone. It is slowly starting to hit me, and it is incredible. But, the work for 2014 starts again pretty quickly. You can't rest on it. So, I'll enjoy it for the next few days and then tuck it away until I am in a rocking chair someday in the future."
On the last laps of the race: "Every portion of the race was difficult, but watching Tandy fight at the end was the highlight. He put on a hell of a show. He made it very clear to everybody that was watching why Porsche selected him as a factory driver. He put his head down and did a fantastic job."
On the first lap tire change: "When we were doing the fan walk and were standing on the front straightaway it was completely damp and the ground was holding the water. We figured from looking at the track it would be wet tire conditions, however, that was very wrong. As soon as we started the formation lap I knew that we had made the wrong decision. We stopped on the first green flag lap so we didn't lose any additional track position. By the time it was all done with it had almost cost us a lap. It took us half of the race to get back into a fighting position. It really just put us in a difficult position. You needed to make the right tire call and unfortunately we made the wrong one at the start and we had to spend some time recovering from it."
On the team strategy: "Team Falken Tire's strategy was extremely important from the beginning. We were two laps down and their calls on when to use wet tires and when to pit or not pit are what got us back into the game. Without so high risk calls and correct calls we could have never won."