On Saturday, Oct. 19, mother nature nearly took the checkered flag herself during the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta, the finale for the American Le Mans presented by Tequila Patrón. The oscillating weather provided a challenge at the start of the race as light rain showers plagued both the warm-up session and pre-race activities. As a result, ALMS officials declared the race “wet” which enabled teams to start on the tire of its choosing; wet or slick.
Opting to start on the Michelin wet/rain tires may have made the difference for the ESM Patrón-sponsored team, with both of their cars battling for the lead throughout the event. At the conclusion of the 10-hour/1,000-mile race, the No. 01 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-03b was seconds away from a victory but a small pit stop miscue made the difference in the race. David Brabham crossed the finish line in second place of the P2 class which earned Scott Sharp a runner-up finish in the championship standings, while the No. 02 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development ARX-03b of Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Rob Bell fought to a fourth place finish.
“It was a great week for the team. We unloaded well, practiced well and improved the car. Obviously we qualified very well, and we raced well because we ran at the front most of the day," added team owner/driver Scott Sharp.
Founded in 2010, ESM has been a growing powerhouse in the ALMS during recent years. ESM’s ALMS record includes two GT wins (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road Atlanta, 2012), one P2 win (Long Beach, 2013) one GT pole position, two P2 pole positions and a combined 17 podium finishes. Next season, the team welcomes ESM newcomer Ryan Dalziel, who will co-drive with Sharp in the No. 01 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development ARX-03b (HPD). Johannes van Overbeek returns to ESM for his fifth season and will co-drive with Ed Brown in the sister No. 02 machine.
“ESM and Patrón are really stepping things up for 2014 and I think that as a team we will be very strong," commented Dalzeil. "I know many of the key people within the team and am really proud to be part of their driver lineup. I think together we can accomplish many wins."
A world-class championship driver, Dalziel won the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and GRAND-AM North American Endurance Championship titles. In addition, he raced to victory at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Starworks Motorsport HPD ARX-03b LMP2 machine. Dalziel was honored in 2012 with the William Lyons Trophy from the Scottish Motor Racing Club and was recognized in 1999 with the Ecurie Ecosse Trophy winner, presented to most impressive Scottish racer of season.
With the spotlights blazing around Road Atlanta, local racecar driver Bryan Sellers drew the curtain on the 2013 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón season by scoring a victory in the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans. To better the best GT competition in the world, the Falken Tire factory ace and co-drivers Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Nick Tandy (United Kingdom) had to maximize every lap in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR while the team had to perform with equal precision to capture the final race of the 15-year ALMS era of sports car racing.
"It is quite possibly the best win I have ever had in my career," stated an elated Sellers. "We have been very lucky to have a couple of really great wins for Falken Tire but this one, first being Petit Le Mans and secondly being the last ALMS race, is very special! It hasn't sunk in yet. I have had a lot of text messages congratulating us and they all seem surreal. It is like I've got someone else's phone. It is slowly starting to hit me, and it is incredible. But, the work for 2014 starts again pretty quickly. You can't rest on it. So, I'll enjoy it for the next few days and then tuck it away until I am in a rocking chair someday in the future."
The win gave Porsche its 116th victory in the ALMS and Falken Tire its fourth. It also continued Sellers streak of at least one victory in the GT class dating back to 2011. Team Falken Tire captured podium finishes in each of the three ALMS endurance races (four hours in length or greater) this season. Sellers, Henzler and Tandy opened the season with a third-place at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Fla.) while Sellers/Henzler ran to a second-place in four-hours of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
While the Petit Le Mans will continue into the future - the 17th running is set for October 4, 2014 - this year's iteration signified the last running of the race under ALMS sanction. The Braselton-based series will merge with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2014 to create the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The first race of the season will be the January 25-26 Rolex 24 At Daytona (Fla.).
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