Posted (11/01/2016) -
Team Sahlen entered the 2016 race season with grand plans to secure overall victories in three different endurance sports car series. The three series that would be the focus of this grand plan was American Endurance Racing, World Racing League and ChumpCar World Series. Each of these series has a season long schedules of events ranging from 7 to 24 Hours.
Additionally, each series would have different rules and guidelines to car preparation and race structure. This different structures would keep the Team Sahlen crew and drivers on their toes all year long to adapt from series to series.
To accomplish this grand plan, Team Sahlen would need an arsenal of race cars to take on this challenge. Three Mazda RX-7s and Three Porsche Caymans would be put into action throughout the season. Having 2 different types of races cars to prepare meant that the crew needed to be extra focused on their details when working from car to car. The Team Sahlen drivers also had the challenge of adapting to 2 distinctly different race cars. The Mazdas are mid horsespower, front engine rotary rockets. The Porsches are high horsepower, mid engine German Teutonic racers.
The 1st race of the season for Team Sahlen was the ChumpCar 14 hours at Daytona. This event saw 125 race cars take the green flag. 3 of those race cars were Team Sahlen RX7s. Early rain downpour caused all three entries to face turmoil. In the end, the tried and true “Charcoal” Mazda came through for the finish, in 33rd slot.
The next event for Team Sahlen was to be the World Racing League event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Unfortunately, a freak snowstorm that weekend caused the event to be cancelled.
This put the 2nd event of the year to be the Sahlen’s Sports Car Springfest at the Glen with the American Endurance Racing Series. This dual 9 hour race event weekend saw a large 75 car entry for the season opener for the series. Team Sahlen entered their #41 & #43 Porsches for this event. On Saturday’s race, Team Sahlen fought hard, and secured 1st and 4th Overall. The Sunday race saw Team Sahlen lead significant portions of the race, to then end up just 20 seconds short of the victory, securing 2nd place.
The 3rd event on the calendar was the Sahlen’s ChumpYard Dog at the Glen with the ChumpCar Series. This event at Watkins Glen International had 100 entries. For this event, Team Sahlen again entered 3 RX7s – Charcoal, Ketchup and Mustard. On Day 1 Team Sahlen fought hard and finished with a fine 7th and 15th on the day. Then on Day 2 Team Sahlen took the fight to the front of the field and led significant portions of the race, including the last 45 minutes of the race. Unfortunately, a long green flag run with no yellows saw the Ketchup entry run 5 minutes short on fuel. The Chumpcar Officials agreed with the cruel fate of the Ketchup racer by awarding Team Sahlen the “Tough Break” award.
Team Sahlen then had a long summer break before the next race. This time period was put to good use to visit Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a Test & Tune day for the Porsches.
As the season resumed in August, Team Sahlen competed in their very 1st World Racing League event. The “Black River Blast” event was held at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan. This track was also new to the Team Sahlen drivers, and they used the Friday test day to get up to speed. On the Saturday race, Team Sahlen raced hard all day through early showers and later afternoon sunshine. As the checkered flag flew, Team Sahlen secured 1st and 2nd overall in the race with their Mazda RX7s. On Sunday, Team Sahlen again had a very clean race, to lock down 3rd and 4th overall in the race.
Later in August, Team Sahlen returned to Gingerman Raceway, this time for the ChumpCar “Cookie Cutter Classic”dual endurance events. On Saturday’s race, a torrential downpour saw all race cars struggling just to stay on the track. Team Sahlen’s Mustard battled hard, leading late in the race until fuel issues forced a pit stop, driving the result back to a 4th place finish. The Ketchup entry meanwhile came home in 11th. On Sunday, Mustard again secured a 4th place finish. But Ketchup bounced back in a big way and secured the Overall victory in the Chump Car race.
The penultimate event on Team Sahlen’s calendar was the ChumpCar event at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. This event saw another large turnout of 50+ entries. Team Sahlen was competitive from the very start of the racing action on Saturday, leading with both the Ketchup and Mustard entries. A fine 3rd place finish was the result of Saturday’s action. Sunday’s race saw the same intense battle up front for the lead, with again both Ketchup and Mustard running in the lead back. Reminiscent of the Watkins Glen ChumpCar race, Team Sahlen was leading with 2 laps to go when a loose muffler shuffled the Mustard entry back to 3rd place.
The final round of the season for Team Sahlen would be at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the American Endurance Racing series. For this event, Team Sahlen entered 3 Porsche Caymans; #41, #43 & #44. This would be the 1st race for the #41 entry, and the team would experience teething issues for the Cayman in both Saturday and Sunday’s 8 ½ hour enduros. In Saturday’s race, the #43 Cayman would race hard in the front pack, leading much of the mid portion of the race. In the end the team would come up ½ short of the victory, finishing 2nd. On Sunday’s race, it would be the #44 Cayman’s turn to lead the charge. Despite a incident on track that broke the hood latches, Team Sahlen would again come home in 2nd place.
As the season concluded, Team Sahlen had accomplished their goal: OVERALL Victories in 3 Endurance Sport Car Series. This trifecta achievement was both gratifying for the crew and had the team looking for more exciting victories come 2017.
On an ironic side, the one thing that was constant for Team Sahlen all year long was Rain. At every event attended there was rain. And even for the one event that was cancelled, it was due to snow (which many would consider a form of precipitation.) This record of rain on a race weekend actually dates all the way back to the Spring of 2015 at Mazda Raceway – Laguna Seca. This is one streak that Team Sahlen hopes to break in 2017.
Team Sahlen would like to thank their dedicated crew for making the 2016 season a fun and successful adventure: Tony Artino, Ben Heater, Jerome Myricks, Holly Nonnamaker, Kris Nonnamaker, Ian Nonnamaker, Jamie Nonnamaker, Bob Oakes, Neil Palumbo, Anita Sahlen, Billy Sahlen, Mike Thomas, Shane Vallen, Allen Wells, Shawn Welsh, Brennan Welsh, Tim Weyer
2016 Team Sahlen Campaign Partners:
eEuroparts.com, Tarett Engineering, Guard Transmission, Porsche of Beachwood, Pittsburgh International Race Complex, HubstandsPRO, Brothers Grimm Landscaping, NGK Spark Plugs, CM Racing Products, Mothers Polishes, Grassroots Motorsports Magazine, Design Engineering Inc., Hard Brakes, Alcon Rotors, Lamin-X, Optima Batteries, Mazdaspeed and TheRaceSite.com.