American Kevin Buckler wins Porsche Cup as world's most successful privateer; U.S. drivers grab unprecedented six of top seven positions.
STUTTGART, Germany - December 12 - Kevin Buckler, from Novato, California, is the most successful private Porsche racing driver in the world for the past year, and has won the 2002 Porsche Cup. For the first time ever, Americans dominated the top finishers, earning six of the top seven positions
The 43 year-old Buckler, owner of The Racer's Group, a comprehensive motorsports services company located at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. is only the fourth American to capture this coveted award (Price Cobb - 1994; Cort Wagner - 1999; and Mike Fitzgerald- 2000).
As both the entrant and lead driver for the light blue The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars, Buckler and an array of co-drivers won the GT class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans - the first Porsche Cup winner to win both those races the same year. Along with the silver/gold trophy awarded to the Porsche Cup winner by Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, since 1970, Buckler took home $37,000 in cash of the total $137,000 Porsche Cup purse.
Buckler was the only driver who scored 2002 victories in both the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series - America's two premier road racing arenas. He and co-driver Michael Schrom, from Ghent, NY, who finished second in the Porsche Cup standings, followed their win at the Daytona 24 Hour with a victory at the California Speedway in Fontana, California, while Buckler used two other co-drivers to win two American Le Mans Series events.
Local talent B.J. Zacharias, from Cincinnati, Ohio, co-drove with Buckler to victory at Mid-Ohio, while veteran Brian Cunningham, from Danville, KY, drove a gutsy race at Mosport to bring the car to victory after Buckler had to step out of the car early with sore ribs from a previous event crash. Cunningham ended up seventh in the Porsche Cup standings, while Zacharias finished tenth.
Buckler also had a helping hand at the long races from factory drivers Jorg Bergmeitser and Timo Bernhard (Daytona), and Bernhard and Lucas Luhr (Le Mans). At the Porsche Cup banquet in Stuttgart last weekend, The Racer's Group also received the award as the top-performing private entrant.
Stephane Ortelli, the Frenchman who now lives in Monaco, was third after his performance in winning the Group N class in the FIA GT Championship and a third place in GT at the Rolex 24. Ortelli also clinched the Porsche Michelin Supercup title earlier this year at Indianapolis, but factory-run series do not count towards the Porsche Cup.
Randy Pobst, from Atlanta, GA, was successful in all three series he ran in Porsches for 2002 - the American Le Mans Series, the Speed Channel Cup, and the Grand-Am Cup - for a fourth place finish in the Porsche Cup, while cable TV boss Leo Hindery, from Hillsborough, Calif., had consistent finishes as an ALMS Rookie in the Orbit Racing Porsche to finish fifth, tied with Orbit co-driver Peter Baron. A third Orbit Porsche driver, Anthony Kester, finished 15th on the strength of a second place finish at the R olex 24. Brian Cunningham, as mentioned, finished seventh on the strength of his ALMS Mosport win.
This was also a good year for other North American teams and their championship-winning drivers. For the second time in the four-year history of the American Le Mans Series, Alex Job Racing, of Tavares, Florida, prepared the winning Porsche 911 GT3 RS for the ALMS GT champion.
In 1999, it was Cort Wagner, and in 2002, co-champions Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen took the crown, also propelling Porsche to its third GT manufacturer's title in four years. Porsche also won the manufacturer's title and driver's championship in 2000, with Dirk Mueller and Dick Barbour Racing securing the crowns.
The Porsche 911-based race cars, led by Buckler's victories at Daytona and Le Mans, also took GT class wins at the world's other major long-distance events, including the 12 Hours of Sebring (Luhr/Maassen), Nurburgring 24 Hours (Alzen/Bernhard/Oestreich/Klasen), and the 24 Hours of Spa (Ortelli/Dumas/Collard).
Besides winning Daytona, Porsche won both the manufacturer's title and the driver's championship in the Grand-Am Cup Grand Sport I class as Doncaster Racing, led by season champion Scott Maxwell from Toronto, bested the field in a season-long battle with a tough group of Corvettes. Co-drivers David Lacey and David Empringham helped Maxwell pilot the team's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racer to victory in the final event to give Maxwell the class driver championship, as well Doncaster the team title and Porsche the manufacturers championship.
For 2003, Buckler and The Racer's Group intends to defend both its Rolex 24 and 24 Hours of Le Mans titles in their Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars, while Alex Job Racing will be back with the same drivers - Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen, Jorg Bergmeister, and Timo Bernhard - to defend their ALMS crown in new, 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 RS racers.