Tuesday
May012007

TEAM NEWS: TAFEL RACING RACE REPORT VIR 400

Photo by John Thawley ALTON, Va.-Tafel Racing had some great moments and some less than great moments at the VIR 400 on Saturday in round four of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.

The day got off to an exciting start when German Wolf Henzler took the 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 Cup from 25th position to qualify on the pole in the final laps of the fifteen-minute session.

"When I went out, I had a problem with the fuel, so I came in immediately to the pits, said Henzler. "The crew found the problem, but when I went back out the session was black flagged and when it s green again, I was told there were two minutes left in the session. There were maybe 15 cars in front of me, so I did what I could do and tried to get a clear lap in traffic. The crew worked very hard and very quick to make changes after practice and the car was ready just in time for qualifying. I want to thank the crew who gave me a perfect car for qualifying."

Teammate Andrew Davis of Bogart, Ga. also had a successful qualifying, finishing 3rd, the car's best starting position of the season.

"Qualifying is always a lot of fun. I haven't qualified since last year and it's great because you just get to out there and go as quick as possible in a short amount of time. With these tires, you get two good laps, pretty much, and that's about it. So, my first lap I was really pleased with. Then I encountered traffic and back off a little, but overall I'm pleased. We've made a lot of progress on the car."

When the race began later in the afternoon, an energized Tafel team watched Henzler dominate early on. After leading the first 19 laps, he was crowded into a corner, which would cost him the race.

"The race was going good in the beginning," said Henzler, "but in turn 10, I made a mistake. I braked a little bit too late, and Nick Ham in the Mazda dived in. We were side by side in mid-corner and in the exit he was a little bit ahead then he just gave me no room and he hit me in the side. I went off in the grass and unfortunately there was a big bump. I jumped and couldn't hold it and I spun and hit the tire wall and that was it. I'm sorry for the crew because they brought the car back into the race, but it was lost."

The crew worked diligently to repair extensive damage, including the front radiator, front bumper, brake ducting, water pump, and bodywork. Near the end of the race, teammate Eric Lux of Buffalo, NY was able to take the car back out on course, but he struggled with the handling of the damaged car.

"It was like nothing I had ever driven before. It kind of wobbled going down the straight and in high speed corners it was a real handful. It was unfortunate that this happened because now we have a lot of points to make up," said Lux. The 74 finished 24th.

Davis and co-driver Nathan Swartzbaugh of La Habra Heights, Ca. had a much better day in the 72 North South Machinery Porsche GT3 Cup, despite some early frustration. They finished 4th, their best finish of the season.

"I was pleased with my start, but then the Mazda kind of squished me into the grass, so that was that," said Davis. Then a lapped car had come out of the pits and came right in front of the leaders; all four of us were nose to tail and he systematically ruined every single car's lap at that point. Later I watched him knock five other cars off the track. Nathan did such a good job in his stint that we were in a good, safe spot where I was able to focus on what was in front of me in my final stint."

This was Swartzbaugh's first visit to VIR and the condensed weekend meant he had very little time to become familiar with the 3.27 mile circuit.

"Andrew was faster than I was in practice and he's much more comfortable here than I am," said Swartbaugh, "so in my head I was just trying to click off consistent lap times. Handing the car back over to Andrew, I felt really secure that we were going to move up positions."

The next event for Tafel Racing will be the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California May 17-20.

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