Tafel Racing Announces Full Driver Lineup for 12 Hours of Sebring
24th January 2008
Tafel Racing will leave nothing on the table as it makes its Ferrari debut at the 56th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. The Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned team will enter two Ferrari F430 GTC, the Nos. 71 and 73, in the March 15th American Le Mans Series season-opener. The Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) managed operation has assembled one of the strongest GT2 class driver lineups in recent memory to go after not only the classic American endurance event at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway but the American Le Mans Series GT2 championship as well.
The full-season driver lineup in the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC was announced previously with 2007 FIA GT GT2 class Champion Dirk Müller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco) being paired with Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany). Müller, the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 (then known as GT) Champion, has three Sebring starts including the GT2 class victory in 2000. He has eight American Le Mans Series victories in 37 starts. Farnbacher has 14 Series GT2 starts with two podiums, both career-high second-place finishes in the last two races of ’07. The duo will share the No. 71 at Sebring with 2007 Le Mans Series GT2 class Champion Rob Bell (Northants, England). Bell is making his American Le Mans Series debut but drove the Ferrari F430 GT to two wins and two podiums in the highly competitive European variant of the Series on his way to the ’07 title. He finished fifth at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last season driving a Panoz Esperante.
The lineup in the second Tafel Racing Ferrari is also impressive. Tafel himself will be joined in the No. 73 machine by Danish-born Allan Simonsen. Simonsen, who now calls Melbourne, Australia home, is one of the most diverse and accomplished drivers in motorsports today. He won the 2007 Australian GT Championship behind the wheel of an F430 and took four podium finishes (one win) in the first four races of the 2007 Le Mans Series GT2 class driving a Ferrari F430 GT with Tafel teammate Rob Bell. Simonsen also enjoyed success at Le Mans finishing third driving a Porsche. He finished third behind Bell in the season-long Le Mans Series GT2 drivers championship after missing the final two events. Rounding-out the driving squad for the No. 73 will be multi-time endurance race starter Pierre Ehret (who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif but was born in Germany). Ehret has two starts in the 12 Hour and six 24 hour races; three each Le Mans and Daytona. Jim Tafel will be making his 12th Series start at Sebring, his second 12 Hour. He has two top-five finishes including a fifth at Sebring last March. Bringing the cooperative effort of the team full circle, Bell, Ehret and Simonsen have all teamed together at various times in recent years.
Tafel, Ehret, Farnbacher and Müller will test the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC at next week’s “Wheels Down” American Le Mans Series Winter Test at Sebring. The four drivers will rotate behind the wheel of the recently delivered mid-engine, Italian race car from January 28-30. It marks the second time the car has run, the first being a highly successful shakedown run at Ferrari’s legendary test track, Fiorano, on January 11 where Müller and Farnbacher put the car through its paces. The visit to Sebring’s 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit will be the team’s first opportunity to begin fine-tuning the car to the team and driver’s preferences. Several other GT2 teams and manufacturers will be onsite during the test as well giving the Cumming Ga.-based team a sense of where the new Ferrari F430 GTC stacks-up against the competition.
Jim Tafel, Team Owner/Driver, No. 73: “Tony Dowe, Technical Director: “I'm very happy to have such a group of drivers in our cars. It makes one part of the challenge a bit easier when you can work with such good guys. They are all very professional and bring a very solid approach to the race. I'm particularly pleased that Rob Bell and Allan Simonsen have joined us. It’s always difficult to find drivers that have the speed and experience for races such as Sebring that also fit in a team that they won’t be spending the whole season with. Clearly these guys are right at the top of their game. I'm also very happy that we have Pierre and Jim together as they really seem to complement each other, on and off the track."
Rob Bell, Driver, No. 71: “Tafel Racing is a new team to me but I have seen how professional they are when I raced against them in some Grand-Am races in ’06. I know the team is in slightly unknown territory with the switch to Ferrari but they have good knowledge of ALMS and what it takes to win races. I’m looking forward to driving with Dominik and Dirk. Between us I think we have good speed, experience and understanding of the 430. Although we are not sharing a car at Sebring, Allan [Simonsen] is a familiar face and we worked well together in LMS last year. Winning the LMS GT2 title last season is one of my career highlights. I also raced at Le Mans for the first time. In competing at Sebring ’08, this ticks another of my ‘Must Do’ boxes. I’ve heard a lot about the event including its unique atmosphere. I expect it to be a tough race, just to finish a 12 hour race is difficult, then when you consider the world class field of teams and drivers, this will be one of my greatest challenges yet. That said, I am aiming to win! The key will be to stay out of trouble and stay consistent with no mistakes. If we can do this I think we will be in with a chance. I feel we have a great opportunity to kick start Tafel’s ALMS campaign and I hope I can play my part in that. I’m also looking forward to the Florida sunshine; March in England is always wet and windy!”
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: “The last two races of the season motivated me very much. The team and drivers did an awesome job and that was the key for those two good results. Now I saw what we can do and my goal is to win the race in Sebring. Last season I collected a lot of experience and data. I found out it is not only important to be quick. No, you have to be smart, you have to use your brain, for tactics, pit stops, tire management, etc. That is what I learned last year. Now we can attack, I am ready. Now, with my new teammate Dirk it will be a great opportunity to start where we finished last year. Dirk is a very, very good and experienced driver. I will watch him very well to learn from him. And of course, with Team Tafel, we have the best GT2 team in the Series. We have awesome mechanics, engineers and people. They are all friendly and nice; you never see any conflicts. That is a sign for a ‘perfect team.’ With Tony on our side we’ve got the best technical and setup support at the track. He has a lot of experience and I can't wait to drive again for that team!”
Pierre Ehret, Driver, No. 73: “I was part of a team last year that placed fourth in the GT2 class at Sebring and my hope is to improve this placement with Tafel Racing. It is a great honor to have talented drivers such as Dominik and Dirk on your team. My hope is to learn from them and to become a faster driver. You can only always give your best and we have to concentrate to finish the race trouble free. The Ferrari has shown to be very competitive last year and I hope I can benefit from that at Sebring.”
Allan Simonsen, Driver, No. 73: “Joining Tafel Racing for the 12 Hours of Sebring is a very exciting opportunity for me. It will be my first time in the American Le Mans Series and at Sebring. I have been told that 12 hours at Sebring is like 24 hours at Le Mans with the track conditions and intense competition. I also understand that the course is very rough and that brings a unique challenge to a driver. Going with a team like Tafel and with drivers that I know and some I have driven with will give me a great chance to feel comfortable quite quickly. I don’t think I could have picked a better situation to debut in America. I am very much looking forward to the race.
To visit the official web site of Tafel Racing, please go to www.TafelRacing.com.
Driver Web Sites can be found at:
Jim Tafel: www.TafelRacing.com
Rob Bell www.RobBellRacing.com
Pierre Ehret www.PierreEhret.com
Dominic Farnbacher: www.Dominik-Farnbacher.de
Dirk Müller: www.Dirk-Mueller.com
Allan Simonsen: www.AllanSimonsen.com
To learn more about Ferrari road cars and motorsports history, please visit www.FerrariWorld.com.
For more on the ALMS, please visit www.AmericanLeMans.com.