Tuesday
May152007

TEAM NEWS: Tafel Racing Poised for Utah Success

Photo by John Thawley Tafel Racing is headed west to the flat lands of Salt Lake City, Utah for round five of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix to be run this Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park.

Miller Motorsports Park holds the distinction of being the longest road course in America, with its 24-turns and 4.5- miles in distance. The course is no stranger to the Tafel team, having taken the battle for the Grand-Am GT series championship to the last race there in 2006.

The team used the weeks off since Houston to test both Porsche 997 RSR racers and all four drivers for two days at Road Atlanta. The team is maintaining a steady development curve with the new Porsche that they hope will reap mid-season benefits.

Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell are coming off of a third place finish in the last race at Houston in their No. 71 Tafel 997 RSR. The duo are poised in third place in the ALMS driver standings and are looking to give owner Jim Tafel the team's first win in ALMS. Henzler has two races to his credit at Miller Motorsports Park. The German finished third at Miller in GT2 last year.

"I have a lot of laps at Miller," Henzler said. "The track is very long and it is really busy for a driver. It seems like you are always in a turn. There is only one place to take a brake and that is down the main straight. With the testing we did 10-days ago, we should have a better handling car, and at Miller that is just what we will need."

Robin Liddell is happy with the way that the team tested as well as the new Road Atlanta surface. The Scot knows that the length of the Miller course demands a good setup to be competitive.

"The testing was quite productive and we got a chance to try a range of suspension setups which will help us when we return there for Petit Le Mans in September," Liddell said. "With the new track surface, the lap times were quitea bit quicker too. The Miller circuit is just like stringing two-laps of a normal track together. The track varies quite a bit, but the surface is good and it is quite enjoyable to drive. I think the car setup is always a compromise, but there are a lot of low speed turns and a couple of high speed braking areas which are important. We have not done a perfect race yet, but we have shown speed and reliability, so I think it will not be long before our Porsche is at the top. We are not in a bad position in the championship, and some of our competitors have made mistakes which have cost valuable championship points. We don't need to take silly risks, but just be a little bit better and make some good strategy calls in the race. Having said that, the Risi team has a high level of confidence having won the first four races and coming off the back of their home win they will be as strong as ever."

Dominik Farnbacher knows the GT2 class is the most competitive in the series. The young German will be looking to Henzler and Liddell for counsel on the track and his own instincts to get the most out of the No. 73 Tafel Porsche.

"The test 10-days ago was very good, I think we were able to improve a lot during our time at Road Atlanta," Farnbacher said. "I think the Ferrari will be hard to beat at Miller, because of the long fast turns, they have an advantage with their mid-engine. But we will try our best to use our new knowledge from the test to be even more competitive. The key for a good race at this track is to have a good handling car and to be in good physical and mental shape. I talked with Wolf about the track, as I haven't seen the circuit et, but will get the opportunity to drive a Cup car on Wednesday so that will help a bit.JI am looking forward to learning this long track. My teammate Jim will be highly motivated after winning the Kentucky Derby."

Jim Tafel has experience at Miller during last year's Grand-Am finale. The Georgia resident knows that concentration and homework will be the key to fast lap times.

"The track demands that you know the sequence of turns as there are no natural markers," Tafel said. "You have to have the place memorized. I have to visualize a lap and with 24-turns that can be tough. Last year in Grand-Am we ran well and had a good car, but it is a little different with four classes and a 997 RSR that really does everything better and faster. At Road Atlanta we had some car issues that we have sorted out for Miller. We are working on really getting the car handling. There are similarities between Road Atlanta and Miller that should pay off for us this weekend. We also visited the shaker-rig again keeping the development going."

"We have not been standing still," Tony Dowe, team technical director said. "We did two days of testing at Road Atlanta with all four drivers and spent a Sunday at the shaker-rig. I am encouraged by the data we are collecting, now we have to translate numbers and paper to results on the track. Miller is a place we know well and our third place at Houston was a fair result, but this team is looking for more."

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