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Bryan Sellers got early start in racing career

SoVaNow.com / September 10, 2012
Bryan Sellers began his racing career after receiving a kart as a Christmas present at age nine. There have been unexpected turns in the road since.

Sellers, part of the large band of drivers, officials, media and fans heading to Virginia International Raceway for the American Le Mans Series weekend, has a remarkable racing resume.

Sellers’ accomplishments include a stint this season as a factory driver for Falken Tire (2009 through the current season); and for Panoz Motor Sport (2005-2007); multiple championships in ladder racing series, ranging from the Formula Ford Zetec (2002) and regional karting titles (1994-97), and a third place in the Porsche Cup competition in 2011.

Sellers also has three ALMS series wins, both in 2011, at Mid-Ohio and Baltimore. Sellers won again in the recent Baltimore event.

Sellers also has experience in some of the most prestigious road race events in the world, including the granddaddy of them all, Le Mans, where he raced in 2005. He also has experience in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Raceway, Sebring and the Petit Le Mans.

Sellers, who also races in the Grand Am Challenge Series, GS class, finished fourth in the ALMS driver points and third in the Porsche World Cup rankings in 2011.

Oh yes, professional sports car racing presented another special opportunity for Sellers. He’s married to television talent Jamie (Howe) Sellers, one of the pit road reporters for the ALMS, which has its primary events aired by ABC and other races, including VIR, on ESPN 2.

The couple lives in Braselton, Ga.

Sellers is coming off a Baltimore win for the second year in a row.

He said 2012 has been a bit of difficult season, so the win in Charm City revived the team, which is trying to develop a strong finishing kick to end the season.

“It was nearly a perfect race. We led the majority of the race. We were able to dot every ‘I and cross every ‘T’ and get the result that we wanted, and the result we needed for the program. “Because (Baltimore is) a street course, it makes the strategy super important, it makes the pit stops very important. Everything was perfect ...”

Now, Sellers has momentum heading into VIR.

Sellers, who races the No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with co-driver Wolf Henzler of Germany, said VIR “is going to be crazy, because it’s a long race. I’ve been to VIR a lot of years and in my history, (this Saturday endurance event) will be longest race I’ve ever ran at VIR and maybe one of the longest run (at the track).

The racing will be demanding. These drivers can sail through three and a half hours of relative calm, only to have a few moments of high level racing anxiety where the race can unravel in a hurry. And there are a variety of demands on the driver.

“VIR is a very physical track ... it always seems the weather conditions are difficult there. It’s either really hot, or it’s raining,” Sellers said.

The projected four hour endurance event translates into a difficult race, Sellers said. “To the strategy point, it’s going to be a lot about managing the driver times in the car, to make sure you don’t exhaust the drivers. It’s going to be a lot about fuel strategy, making sure you stop at the right time to put yourself in good track position, from the end of the race.”

Team functionality is important.

Sellers said the ALMS weekend is the biggest event VIR has had in some time.

Weather could be an issue again this week, and this series runs, rain or shine.

“When it’s 100 degrees and humid outside, its 125-130 inside the cockpit. The physicality of (racing) goes up ten-fold,” said Sellers. Dehydration becomes a concern. When it rains, “it wears you mentally. You have to be so focused in the wet. When you’re driving in the rain, you very little time to take a deep breath and relax. Everything is intensified in the wet. Everything’s that much more difficult.”

Regardless of weather conditions, one of the unique challenges of ALMS is the interaction between the different classes, with drivers powering around the track at a variety of speeds.

“You have to constantly be aware of not only yourself, but everyone else in your surroundings. There’s four other races going on,” Sellers said.

“You can lose a race very easily in traffic ... by not letting somebody by when you should have, or by not taking a chance to pass a slower car when you should have. It’s all risk management and risk reward.”

Sellers is paired at VIR with Henzler, one of nine factory Porsche drivers worldwide.

“He’s one of the best - if not, in my mind, the best Porsche in the world. He’s a great guy, very lucky to have him as a co-driver. We’ve been together for three years now. We’ve become great friends. I consider him one of the best friends in the world,” Sellers said.

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