As it sit in my hotel room, which is not too far from the Road Atlanta race track where the 13th running of the Petit Le Mans is about to happen, I thought I'd take time to look back at my time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the six hour race, which can be considered as a warm up to the ten hour race at Road Atlanta. I had the opportunity to once again follow the Falken Tire team as they went about their weekend.
The Falken Tire team has had a great season so far. They won two races with the lead up to the six hour race. They won their first race at Mid-Ohio in August and did it once again at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Two wins and a hard charger award, which given to Falken's factory Porsche driver, Wolf Henzler, for his unbelievable and incredible pass at Road America, put the team on high spirits as the days lead up to the six hour race in California.
The already happy and positive, second driver, Bryan Sellers, was in an even happier and more positive mood as he made his way through the paddock.
Even the team manager, Derrick Walker, was optimistic about the race.
A well organized tool chest is a sign of a well organized team.
It's always great to see some Speedhunters support on a professional race car.
Tire engineer, Yoshi Yasuda, who is based in Japan, was in a fighting mood for most of the weekend as he wanted to gain one more win this season.
Bryan Sellers gave his best "blue steel" look to the camera during the autograph session.
But Kevin Jones, supervisor for the Falken ALMS program, did not like the attention of a camera in his face. Evasive maneuvers were practiced every time he spotted my lens.
Even Andrew Hoit, the VP of Marketing, a person who is very much behind the scenes, sees a bit of the lime light whenever he's at the track.
Though the team was in a jovial mood, some serious work had to be put in for the team to once again be successful. Here, Edo Ichikawa, used a heat gun to scrape off a dirty layer on the race slicks.
The Falken photographer, Jesse Lee, set up shop inside the tire trailer to update the Falken Tire Facebook page on the team's progress.
And of course, the Porsche itself needed to be setup for the race.
The team's crew chief, Nico Castellaccio…
…met up with each team member to make sure the car would be in tip-top shape for the six hour race.
The teams lined up at the grid for the pre-race ceremonies. Right after the national anthem was sung, the grid opened up for all fans to walk out onto the track to see all the cars, drivers and teams up close.
And before I knew it, the race started. Six hours to go. The Falken Tire Porsche qualified 9th.
Bryan Sellers was driving the first stint of the race.
He was sandwiched between Tommy Milner in the #3 Corvette and a #44 Flying Lizard Porsche. But during that first stint, Bryan was able to move up to 7th place.
Tire guys rush to mount tires before a race, but when a race starts, their job is done. The only thing they need to do sit back, watch the race coverage on the TV, listen into the team radio (as Edo is doing here) and to get data on tires that are returned from pit stops.
The Falken Tire Porsche tackles the famous corkscrew.
The cork screw is a place where a lot of battles become more intense as the #55 BMW is right on the Porsche's rear.
The Falken drivers fought off the onslaught of attackers well.
After a good while of not seeing the teal and blue Porsche on track, I started to get a little worried. Word got to me from that the car had been in an collision with a GT-C Porsche, was damaged and was parked in the pit garage to get repairs.
When there's a whole mess of mechanics surrounding one key area of a car when its in the garage, that's usually not a good sign.
The waterpump was damaged in the crash with the GT-C Porsche so one of the mechanics started to remove the one from the spare engine.
Repairing the waterpump was the easy part. The hard part was to remove parts to actually get to it.
Unfortunately, the Porsche sustained some frame damage which prevented the team from being able to access the water pump.
Derrick Walker came in to assess the car and made the decision to end the race around the 4 hour mark.
The tire engineer, Yoshi, was very sad about the team's result…
…so he went inside the tire trailer, changed out of his fire suit, and had some ramen.
Hopefully, their luck at Petit this weekend will be better.