Bryan Sellers Takes Years of Valuable Lessons to Petit Le Mans Finale
Falken Works Driver Knows Positives and Pitfalls of "Home" Track
BRASELTON, Ga., October 15, 2012 - October 20th will mark the 15th running of the Petit Le Mans, the traditional season-finale for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, at Road Atlanta. It will be the sixth time Bryan Sellers will compete in the 1,000-mile/10-hour - whichever comes first - endurance spectacular. In that time, the Braselton, Ga.-resident has learned some valuable lessons at the track that is less than a handful of miles from his home. Chief among those is that the race is unlike any other endurance event in the world. While it is shorter than the 24 and 12-hour races that define the sport, the ultra-quick pace, elevation changes and physically demanding circuit will put a unique strain on the Falken Tire factory driver and his co-drivers in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Martin Ragginger (Austria).
The 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit is far smoother than the former bomber air base runways that make up Sebring International Raceway, the home of the season opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The lap is a quarter the length of the 8.64-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, site of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and doesn't have the speed-inducing banking the Rolex 24 At Daytona runs on at Daytona International Speedway. Yet, when the Falken Porsche screams into the uphill right-hander at the end of the main-straight for the first time on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Sellers and team will be starting one of the most challenging races on endurance calendar.
Modern sports car racing demands that endurance races are run at the same pace as the much shorter two-hour, 45-minute "sprint" races. The tempo is daunting with the three drivers pushing the car near 10/10ths for the full 1,000-mile distance. Lap-after-lap running the Porsche flat-six engine to redline, the disc brakes glowing molten orange under the pressure of braking 12-times a lap, the gearbox being brutalized by the electronically controlled paddle shifting and the Falken Azenis racing slick being pushed to the edge of their performance window all in the search for every tenth of a second and every position on track. All of this into the night around an unlit Road Atlanta circuit that is a constant combatant to Sellers and the 13-car GT class entry list - 41 total cars will entered in the race. The strains are as great as any race more than twice the scheduled distance.
The former open-wheel racing champion will have a slightly tweaked car to become accustom to before the green flag falls. The International Motor Sport Association (IMSA), official rules-makers of the ALMS, have made a variety of modifications to the GT class technical regulations entering the season-closer with an eye towards better parity. Sellers' Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, like all of the German marques GT cars, will gain 20Kg of weight but will also be blessed with a slightly larger (0.4mm) restrictor, which feeds air to the engine. Additionally, the car's rear wing will be raised 100mm.
ABC will wrap the 2012 ALMS season with the 15th Annual Petit Le Mans network broadcast at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, October 21. Full live streaming of the Petit Le Mans will begin at 11:15 a.m. (ET) on October 20. Multiple in-car cameras, available at www.ALMS.com,will complement the live race stream. Live coverage of qualifying in all classes can be found on ESPN3 opening with GTC class at 1:50 p.m. Friday, October 19. Official practice begins on Thursday with testing on Wednesday. Live timing and scoring of all sessions, including qualifying and the race, is offered at www.ALMS.com.
Quotes: On the unique challenges of Petit Le Mans: "Petit Le Mans is very difficult for a lot of reasons. Road Atlanta is very high-speed and has many high-load corners making it very physical on you as a driver. The race is also very mentally draining because of the high-speed corners and the amount of cars on track. Your concentration is so high for an extended amount of time. It eventually wears you down."
On racing so near his home: "There is always something special about a home event. You have so much support from all aspects: your friends, your family, local media and press. It's a little bit like having the crowd behind you at an NFL game. It always gives you a little bit more of a boost. When the results are strong, it makes them that much more meaningful."
On racing Road Atlanta at Night: "Road Atlanta at night is one of the hardest tracks I have ever raced on. It is very difficult to keep an eye on your mirrors and see everything that needs to be seen because of all the rises and elevation changes. It is certainly something that takes practice and an increased awareness."
On adjustments made to the Porsche for Petit Le Mans: "It is always very difficult to say how the changes will affect the car and speed. The one thing I have learned over all the years is that you have to focus on the things you can control. Unfortunately, how these changes will impact the Team Falken Tire Porsche is not one of them. Our goal will be to evaluate the changes as quickly as possible and then see if we can find a way to counteract them and minimize or maximize the changes as needed. I think the Porsche will remain very competitive and potential race-winning car."