After running on the streets of Long Beach and at Petit LeMans in Atlanta, Falken Tire's ALMS team headed up the California coast last weekend to finish off their season at Monterey Sports Car Championships. 2009 has been a shakedown year of sorts for Team Falken, and they headed to Laguna Seca looking to finish off the year with a strong showing before a full season of competition in 2010. Once again we used our behind the scenes access with the team to take an inside look at the final event of the year.
Just a couple of short weeks after the rain-shortened race in Atlanta, the GT2 class Falken Porsche RSR was ready to begin practice on Friday morning at Laguna Seca. Fortunately, the weather forecast had no rain in sight for the weekend.
With practice underway, the Porsche joined the rest of ALMS field as they rounded the track during the morning fog so typical of the Monterey area.
Following the hour-long practice session, the two drivers Brian Sellers and Dominic Cicero take a quick break. Quietly discussing results from practice top secret strategies for qualifying perhaps?
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew were busy getting the Porsche dialed in for qualifying.
During the lunch break on Friday, the guys gave a "tech talk" to a large group of race fans that had gathered around the Falken transporter. They answered questions from the fans and discussed things like the challenges of competing against race teams and tire companies with much higher budgets. Both Brian and Dominic showed laid back, easy-going personalities that you might not expect to see in the serious world of pro sports car racing.
Once the tech talk had wrapped up, the blue and green machine was rolled out in preparation of the second practice session, which would be immediately followed by qualifying.
With the sun shining and the air warmed up, the Porsche pulls out of the Falken pit box for practice…
…while the crew analyzes data and monitors the car from several trackside and in-car cameras. This sort of thing might seem strange to someone used to drifting, but it's commonplace in the world of "traditional" motorsport.
Following some practice laps, qualifying had started. Here we see the car as it enters the Cork Screw during one of it's qualifying laps. What kind of time would they be able to turn in?
With Mr. Sellers behind the wheel, the car turned in a lap time of 1:25.455. This meant that the Falken Porsche would start from the 12th position in the GT2 class on Saturday.
Before the start of Saturday's race, Brian and Dominic took part in ALMS driver autograph session. Fans flocked tot he Team Falken pit to get an autographed poster from the drivers…
..or were they flocking to get autographs from the Falken umbrella girls? Hmmm….
Here we see a last minute pre-race discussion on the grid, documented in all its glory by Skylar and his camera. In a few minutes we'd all be cleared from the track as the cars fired up for the race.
As the green flag dropped, the Porsche and its drivers settled in for the long four-hour race that lay ahead.
The #17 was fortunate enough to avoid an early tangle up that claimed several GT2 cars and was able to advance through the field. At one point, the car had advanced as far as second in class! As with any long distance race, a steady and consistent pace would be the key to success.
As the race neared the halfway point, things continued to go smoothly. There were no accidents and the evil gods of mechanical trouble had yet to rear their ugly heads.
As the sun went down and the battle entered its final laps, the end of the race (and the season) was finally in sight. As the checkered flag fell, the Falken Porsche would finish eighth in the GT2 class – the team's best finish of the year.
Following the race, Dominic takes a well-earned break after climbing out of the cockpit. By all accounts the eight place finish a more than satisfactory way to end the three-race intro season for Team Falken.
With just a few months of off-season until next year's Sebring race, Team Falken's ALMS crew will be busy developing the car and their tire setup for 2010.
We can't wait to see how they do in their first full season of competition!