Photo By John Thawley Sebring, Fla., March 17, 2007 -- Tafel Racing celebrated a podium and a fifth place effort today in the team's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring debut. Henzler, Liddell and Long come home third, with Tafel, Farnbacher and James finishing in fifth.
Drivers Wolf Henzler, Robin Liddell and Patrick Long drove to a podium finish. The trio had to overcome first lap contact, which dropped them back to thirteenth to soldier back and finish on the bottom step of the podium.
"The race started off hard for us, with Wolf getting spun around," Liddell said. "Patrick ran a really strong stint mid-race and we were in the top two. The car was competitive and aside from a little bad luck we had a car that could have possibly fought for the win. I had a difficult last stint when an LMP1 car came out of the pits in front of me on cold tires and then spun forcing me into the dirty part of the track. It took me several laps to get the tires cleaned off and a result was a slow leak which eventually went all the way down."
Wolf Henzler was in the car when the contact happened on the first lap. The German came back and brought the car through the field into the top three by of the end of the drive.
"I was very angry after the Ferrari hit me and I pushed hard to make up the time," Henzler said. "I was able to do some consistent lap times and we weren't so far from the leader when I handed the car over. Our mechanics didn't finish preparing the car until 2.45 a.m. this morning and they gave everything to us. I like to win, but to finish third is a very good result for the team."
Patrick Long put in a strong mid-race stint that witnessed the young California native lapping faster than the cars qualifying time.
"I had a pretty good day behind the wheel," Long said. "I was able to run some fast times in my first stint and try to make up some ground. As the race went on the track became really dirty which made it vital to stay on the racing line. The Tafel guys really prepared a great car today. We had a few issues, but I think we put everyone on notice this new team will be a group that will contend for wins nearly every race this year."
Teammates Jim Tafel, Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James endured a suspension failure at the three-quarter mark to bring their No. 73 Tafel Racing Porsche home in fifth.
"I was in the car when the suspension collapsed," said James. "I was able to limp the car to the paddock and the crew made relatively quick work of the repair. Up until that point we had only lost a handful of laps. The crew has done a superb job with the car, pit stops and race maintenance of the car. They deserved a top finish today in a tough field."
Dominik Farnbacher recorded the distinction of leading the first laps for the Tafel Racing ALMS effort at the beginning of the race.
"I came into the race with the goal of being consistent and stay out of trouble," Farnbacher said. "We had the bad luck with the suspension problem. Without our loss of time from the front end repair, we could have been racing for a podium finish. Tony and the crew did a great job. The cars got better every time out and we really hit on the setup for the race. I am looking forward to the rest of the season!"
Jim Tafel was brimming with pride at the end of the 12-hour race. The team's first ALMS race resulted in a podium and sixth place finish that has capped off months of hard work by the team and crew.
"I had a blast during my second stint," Tafel said. "I was able to settle in quickly and the new Michelin rubber gave me the added confidence to really move forward. The car remained consistent and really stayed under me. We even managed to lead a few laps in our car. A podium and another top five finishing position is a great start to our maiden ALMS season. The guys in the 71 car had a great day. Ian, Dominik and myself had some tough luck, but the team was behind us all the way and we ended up ahead some of really good cars."
Team technical director Tony Dowe is very satisfied with the opening round of the ALMS season. The past months of hard work delivered quality prepared cars that proved the team's professionalism posting top finishes for both entries.
"I am very delighted for the whole team," Dowe said. "To get third and fifth in our first race only means that we can improve for the coming races. We know the level we have to race with and what we have to do to win. The car and tires were fantastic; one car didn't get any penalties and the No. 73 car was a case of coulda, shoulda, woulda. We made some mistakes and know we have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks, but we can get the results. It was a great start to go to St Petersburg with."
In a related story, Jim Tafel's father, James Tafel, is also in the racing business, thorough bred horses. His horse, Street Sense, is a top contender for the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense also raced today at Tampa Bay Downs. The three-year old colt went off as the favorite at 6-5 and won by a "flared nostril" in his usual style, from several lengths back in the last turn taking to the rail for an exciting to the line decision.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series will be the St. Petersburg Grand Prix on Saturday, March 31st.