In a spectacular wet sprint, Wolf Henzler made up eight spots in the last 20 laps with five of those positions coming on the last lap alone, to give the #17 Falken Tire Porsche their first ALMS win ever.
All afternoon rain was threatening, but it held off until the very end; just when the race teams thought they escaped with partly cloudy and humid weather. Then, in the last 20 minutes of the race several storms converged bringing heavy rain and chaos on the track.
When the rain started Patrick long was leading the pack in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche. However, with no heat in his tires and a flooded track Patrick was just one of more than a dozen casualties on what turned out to be the last lap of the race.
“The car was good, with the set-up and strategy just as we planned it – this race should have been ours. When we put the rain tires on, we got a lot of pickup, and the tires heated up when we ran close to the Corvette. They cooled down again when we ran in the clear, but when the rains came, no one had grip. The yellow should have come when the track was flooded – no one had any grip, even with the rain tires,” said Long, who, with Bergmeister and the Lizards, have won the GT championship the last two years.
First a few raindrops fell causing a flurry in the pits. Then came a sudden heavy shower. That was Henzler’s chance – and he used it: When the race restarted after a yellow flag and most of his rivals had their hands full keeping their cars on the flooded circuit, he charged from fifth to the lead in just one lap.
“When it started to rain, I still had good grip with the slicks, and didn’t want to lose track position. The team called me in to change, and I didn’t want to lose track position, and I disagreed with their decision. Finally, they called me and we changed to rain tires. Then the racing line started to dry and I was really upset, and called in to ask to go back to slicks, and no one answered my radio call. Then it rained really hard and, of course, the team was right. On the last lap, all the guys spinning were tak[ing] the inside line, but I found grip on the outside line and passed all those cars. Falken had tested in the rain at Mid-Ohio, but Bryan had done all the testing. Still we had confidence in the rain tire, and they helped us win,” said Henzler, who won Le Mans in the GT class in 2010 and was the ALMS GT champion with Joerg Bergmeister in 2008.
Henzler’s co-driver, Bryan Sellers (USA) found the win especially rewarding
Not only was this the first sports car win for Falken Tires in North America, it was the first win for Porsche this year in ALMS GT – keeping the sports car maker in the hunt for the manufacturers championship.
“We weren’t that happy with our practice and qualifying performance, but the Falken crew worked hard to improve the car, and we seemed to be faster the longer the race went. And we knew from previous experience that the Falken Tires had good grip in the rain. Early in my stint, we were turned around by the Ford GT, and although I kept the car running and got right back on the track, we lost four positions, and had to push hard to not lose a lap. But the real story of this race was my co-driver – Wolf Henzler – who went from eight to fifth right after the first wet re-start, and fifth to first on the last lap to take our first win. These wet laps were some of the best laps I have ever witnessed,” said Sellers, who also scored his first ALMS win.
BMWs finished third and fourth, so they maintained their manufacture’s points lead with 96 points, with Chevrolet second with 77 points and Porsche with 72.
GT Challenge Results
The TRG team of Spencer Pumpelly/Duncan Ende made it two in-a-row (and three in a row for TRG) with a convincing win in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. With the win, they broke a three-way tie with teammate Dion von Molke (whose car had clutch problems) for second place in the points, and crept closer to points leader Tim Pappas, who finished second with Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Black Swan Racing Porsche.
The event will be broadcast on a delayed telecast on Sunday, August 7, at 10:00 PM EDT on ESPN2. We will be updating this post and our facebook page with some of the more than 2000 pictures snapped by FlatSixes.com’s Andrew Granieri during his coverage of this race.
[Source: Porsche Motorsport]