Bryan Sellers is heading to Japan this week to conduct development tests for Falken Tire. The American racer, who drives Falken's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entry in the American Le Mans Series, will participate in three testing sessions in Asia as part of a major tire development campaign by the company.
By testing in Japan, the information compiled will allow Falken Tire engineers to more quickly design and build improved variants for future use. Because not only tire size but also the chemical construction and building techniques can greatly impact the performance of different cars, the former open-wheel champion will drive an ACO-specification Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the test. The development "mule" is similar to the No. 17 Team Falken Tire entry he competes within the ALMS. The test is intended to benefit not only the tire for the Porsche Sellers races in North America but also all international series employing the GT/GTE class Porsche.
"The tests in Japan certainly show an increased commitment by Falken," said Sellers. "All of the other tire companies that we are competing against are great tire manufacturers. They are not sleeping which means we need to be working as hard as possible to try and catch up. Falken is taking every step that can feasibly be taken and we're seeing the results of that commitment. I have never been to Japan but I am looking forward to learning the culture of the company and the country."
Falken Tire has utilized the "Le Mans Break" – the hiatus in the North American competition schedule to allow interested teams to participate at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – for considerable development work. Since the ALMS ran its most recent event at Long Beach in April, Sellers has tested Falken's Porsche four times at Road America and Mid-Ohio to expand the knowledge of the current tire while also examining compounds and construction techniques on the same tracks the car will compete on later this season. The information Sellers and teammate Wolf Henzler have compiled has gone back to engineers in Japan for analysis.
"I feel like we have made great progress with the tires to this point. However, the races we are coming up on were our weak point in the schedule last year," Sellers noted. "It will be hard to judge our progress until we are done with the next stretch of races. We have certainly taken steps in the right direction but we are all aware of the work and dedication needed to move forward.
"By testing in Japan it should allow us a much quicker turnaround on tires. The shipping time it takes to get the tires from Japan to the U.S. is one of largest logistical problems. By testing in Japan, it cuts roughly a month out of the time needed to get the tires to the states."
It might not be racing, but Sellers says the commitment the driver must bring to these sessions is just as high.
"In tire testing, it is very important to be consistent but also to always be on the limit. There is no possible way to know how a tire will react unless you push it to its max at all times," he added. "As a driver, you often want to fix the car to fit your style of driving. However, in tire testing it means nothing so you have to learn to focus on tire changes alone."