Buckler preparing for first assault on Le Mans amidst busy schedule of racing. BRASELTON, Ga. (April 26, 2002) -- For American Le Mans Series driver Kevin Buckler, the chance to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a dream come true. But as ...
Buckler preparing for first assault on Le Mans amidst busy schedule of racing.
BRASELTON, Ga. (April 26, 2002) -- For American Le Mans Series driver Kevin Buckler, the chance to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a dream come true. But as driver/owner for The Racers Group racing team, Buckler is going through his most intense management and planning ever as he prepares for racing in France as well as at home over the next two months.
"Being invited to race at Le Mans is a dream; it's almost a bit surreal," said Buckler. "I can't believe that after watching and following the race since I was a kid that we will actually be competing there. I hold respect for the institution of Le Mans in the highest regard."
Along with the other 16 American Le Mans Series teams that will be racing at Le Mans, and the rest of the field of 48 cars, Buckler and his team have to be at the Circuit de la Sarthe for a special practice session on May 5. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be run June 15-16 and The Racers Group will be competing in the GT class for production-based cars.
But action in the United States won't shut down. The American Le Mans Series will run the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on May 19. Buckler's team is based in the industrial park at Sears Point, so his team and much of his equipment will come back from France for the Sears Point race, then return to Le Mans.
After Le Mans, the American Le Mans Series resumes with an event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 30, necessitating a quick return of people and equipment from France. The Le Mans effort is requiring a great deal of organization and time on Buckler's part.
As soon as Buckler received word from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) that his entry for Le Mans had been accepted, he knew he was going to need help. Unlike many American teams that have raced several times at Le Mans, it will be the first time for The Racers Group. He freely admitted that he didn't know the intricacies of preparing for a 24-hour sports car endurance race in a foreign country.
One of the first things Buckler did was hire Henry Greder, a Frenchman who has raced at Le Mans nine times and been involved in the event 24 times. Greder will help the team in many ways, including translating, interpreting and dealing with local customs and language. Breder, Buckler said, also knows many of the "little things" that will help make the event run more smoothly for the team. "He knows everybody there, and everybody knows him," Buckler said.
Buckler, who will campaign a new Porsche 911 GT3 RS in the event, also hired a German company to assist with support for the race team. The company will help with bulky items such as nitrogen regulators (which work differently in France than in the USA), voltage regulation, etc. Unlike some USA-based teams, The Racers Group is not sending its team transporter to France.
The third outside agency assisting Buckler and the team is Project 100, an English company that specializes in event management. Project 100 is responsible for travel, lodging, food, credentials, etc., for the team and its guests, a daunting task in itself. There will be 15 team members and approximately 30 guests attending the race, and six will go to the testing session. One of the more important details to look after is transportation to the race track from the house where the team will stay.
Even with the outside help, Buckler finds his days consumed. "It's almost like setting up a mini-business just for Le Mans," said the Novato, Calif., resident. "I have a list in my laptop of things to do that's at 20 pages and growing.
"But I'm enjoying it," he said. "I'm the kind of person who likes to wake up in the morning and have a crisis or something to deal with. If I don't, I don't feel like I'm at my best. I need challenges."
The team has shipped six cargo containers, each weighing 500 pounds, from California to France. Included are such items as spare parts, spare bodywork (painted and decaled), radio equipment ad other essentials. The car that will be used didn't have to be shipped because it is being picked up from the Porsche factory in Germany right before the test. It will be shipped to the states after the race.
After all of the management and preparation, Buckler is ultimately going to Le Mans to drive in the race. His many years of experience will be useful at Le Mans, a circuit that is 8.625 miles in length with many challenging turns. Learning the circuit in the practice time permitted is a challenge all newcomers face, and Buckler has even tried to accelerate the learning process through the use of a realistic Le Mans video game.
Buckler will co-drive with Porsche factory drivers Lucas Luhr and Timo Bernhard, both from Germany and both regulars on the American Le Mans Series with Alex Job Racing, which is not competing at Le Mans. With sponsorship from Suncoast Porsche, Thalist.com and Rennlist.com, Buckler said The Racers Group is approaching the competition at Le Mans with intensity.
"We are not going over there just to be seen," he said. "We're one of only two GT teams from America to be accepted and it's a big honor that has been bestowed upon us. If we go over there and do anything but shine, we'll be letting down a lot of people who helped us get in the race. We're not about to do that.
"We're loading up, and we're going there to win."