When: 11:10 a.m.
Where: Road Atlanta, Braselton
Tickets: Prices are $50 and up. Children under 12 with an adult are free.
It’s been an emotional week for two-time defending Petit Le Mans champion Bryan Sellers.
The 33-year-old from Braselton, who lives five minutes from Road Atlanta, stopped short of calling Saturday’s race the biggest of his career. But it’s certainly one of the most meaningful. This this will be Sellers’ last race with the only team he’s ever had.
When the 18th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda concludes with Saturday’s 10-hour season-ending race, Sellers’ program, Team Falken Tire, is ceasing operations. Sellers joined the team in 2009, forged a relationship with veteran Porsche specialist Wolf Henzler and the entire crew and created a lifetime of memories.
“It’s difficult not to be emotional,” said Sellers, who teamed with Henzler to win the last two Petit Le Mans. “I think this whole weekend will be difficult for everyone.”
Difficult, and wet: Forecasts call for a 100 percent chance of rain Saturday at Road Atlanta. Rain won’t stop the race, though, according to Kelsi Nilsson, manager of public relations and marketing for Road Atlanta. And both Sellers and Henzler are respected rain drivers.
Four class titles in the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will be decided during the event. Patrick Pilet of Porsche North America leads BMW Team RLL drivers Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner by just three points in the GT Le Mans class.
The No. 3 Corvette Racing team of drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia also are in the mix for the GTLM title, only 10 points behind Pilet’s team.
In the GT Dayton class, 23-year-old Christina Nielsen, of Denmark, leads by one point heading into Saturday’s race.
Nielsen is looking to become the first female to win an international motor racing championship. She has four second-place finishes and one third this season.
Nielsen will team with drivers Kuno Wittmer and Brandon Davis.
“Winning the championship would be a major accomplishment in my career and I believe would be a step in the right direction towards becoming a pro driver,” Nielsen told the International Motor Sports Association’s website. “Also the fact that no other female has won it before makes it even more special. I think we deserve a win and have the driver lineup, the car and the team to do it. Honestly, I’m going into the last round to have fun, enjoy it and win. I love Road Atlanta, it’s my favorite track and it’s such a cool event.”
Sellers and Henzler are out of championship contention and considered underdogs in the GT Le Mans class.
That would just make an upset win all the sweeter for the teammates, who first met at a test drive in Sebring, Florida in 2009.
Sellers admits to being nervous the first time meeting Henzler, a renowned professional driver from Germany, but quickly found they had much in common and got along well.
Six years and six wins later, Sellers has a hard time imagining what it would be like driving with someone else.
“I’ve grown to become really great friends with all the people here,” Sellers said. “So you’re not just leaving a racing program, you’re leaving people who have become near and dear to your heart over the years. We want this one bad to end our time together, our time with Falken and all our crew guys on a good note.”
While Sellers is focused on Saturday’s race, he is also mindful of his uncertain future. He hopes to join another team before the next series, but has not signed anything yet.
“Time will tell,” he said.
In the meantime, Sellers, a transplant to Braselton from Dayton, Ohio, can count on having at least one more fan in his corner this year, albeit a pint-sized one. Ten-month-old Liam Sellers will be posted up with mom Jamie for Saturday’s 10-hour race.
Liam was born shortly after Sellers and Henzler won last year’s Petit Le Mans.
“He’s pretty good, he’s pretty happy,” Sellers said of Liam. “As long as you have toys and food, he’s all right.”