Jim Tafel reflects on 2008 Jim Tafel had a unique perspective to the success of his Tafel Racing team in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. From both on top of the Tafel pit structure during a race to behind the wheel of one of the team’s Ferrari F430 GTs, the season was an unqualified success. Tafel Racing won four GT2 races and finished second in the championship while the team owner continued to make progress on the track. Here is his perspective.
Question: Looking back on the 2008 season, what is the first memory that jumps out at you?
Answer: Definitely our first American Le Mans Series win at St. Petersburg, Fla. Now that was a rush! That result showed to me that Tafel Racing can and will win races in a world-class series.
Q: What do you recall as your biggest surprise within the team in 2008?
A: To complete the season with four GT2 class wins and getting an overall Top 10 finish (ninth) at Mid-Ohio.
Q: What do you think was the best moment for the team this year?
A: I think the biggest moment we had actually came between Atlanta and Laguna Seca. We were no longer in the running for GT2 championship after Petit Le Mans but we came back to answer that disappointment by posting a win at Laguna Seca. I think that was the greatest challenge that Tafel Racing had to overcome in 2008.
Q: Tafel Racing has quickly progressed through the ranks of American Le Mans Series GT2 from third in the championship in 2007, to a close second in 2008. What kind of expectations do you have for the No. 71 and the No. 73 entering the 2009 season?
A: We have one last step on the championship podium to complete. I can see that every year it gets tougher and tougher to reach the top. 2009 will be no different. The level of competition between manufacturers, teams and sponsors will make winning the championship a difficult goal to achieve for any team. This is truly one of the most competitive classes in one of the most competitive racing series in the world.
Q: What do you think was your best driving moment of the year?
A: Personally, it was to finish fourth at Sebring and eighth in drivers points. I had some incredible on-track and off-track moments this year but it is the race results and the championship effort by this team that gives us the ability to come back next year.
Q: While every win is special and important, what victory, or podium, was the most meaningful to you this season?
A: The most meaningful victories had to come in California. One being the famous Long Beach Grand Prix and the other being Laguna Seca. To win a street race and a road course race in the wonderful state of California was a sensational accomplishment by this team. I am very proud of each and every member of Tafel Racing for the effort and results that we achieved this season. We never could have accomplished these goals without the help of all of our partners. Thanks to Bell Microproducts, East Coast Jewelry, Ulysse Nardin, Michelin, and last but not least, Ferrari.