The Racer's Group will have both barrels loaded this weekend when it concludes the American Le Mans Series season at one of the most famous races on the sports car calendar, Petit Le Mans.
"We are going after this one," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "We have two very solid cars with a great mix of experienced drivers and some very, very good young talent. Some of these guys are unknowns in the ALMS, but I suspect that won't be the case once this weekend is over."
Canache, in the No. 66 Porsche, comes from a diverse racing history, including ARCA, Mazda's MX-5 Challenge, and the Grand-Am's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
"He's a solid driver and has a really well rounded racing background," said Buckler. "There seems to be a lot of talent coming out of Venezuela and Emilio has been superb at helping us identify some of the new emerging stars. I have really liked Nelson's approach to this event so far and can't wait to see how he does in the race. He is a great fit for TRG."
DiGuida, TRG's regular season driver and also from Venezuela, earned his first ALMS win earlier this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca followed up with a second win at Mosport, Canada and has been a solid performer with Pumpelly much of the season. While he has yet to tackle the terrain and famous Road Atlanta "esses," he believes he is well-prepared for the season endurance finale.
"I feel that I have improved as the season has gone along," says DiGuida, "I know how demanding this race is and I am going to do my best with Spencer and Nelson to bring home a podium, hopefully the top step of the podium."
Pumpelly, a resident of Atlanta, brings numerous sports cars wins to the international classic, including a victory this year at Mosport. He has been looking forward to this event all year and not simply because it is in his backyard.
"Petit Le Mans is a special event for any driver. It has developed such a reputation on the high profile international race scene," says Pumpelly. "The track is great - a real challenge. Add in all the great professional drivers from all the classes from around the world, as well as the transition from day to night racing and you have one exciting day. And it can be a long day, so you have to be patient, while at the same time realizing it's a 10-hour, 1,000 mile sprint at well."
Gutierrez was a two-time karting champion in Mexico in 2005 and 2006 with the Roax Jr. and Max International series. He also competed in the Continental GTS series in 2010. This season, the young driver caught Buckler's eye at a couple of in-season test days.
"We had heard that Manuel was a real up-and-comer, so we tested with him at Indy, VIR and Watkins Glen," said Buckler, "and boy, did we like what we saw. He is young, fast and smart; and I bet he will really turn some heads this week at Petit Le Mans in his ALMS debut. This is his first Professional race with us and its a big one. All I can say on this guy is stay tuned!"
Hedlund, in the No. 68 Porsche, is no newcomer to TRG. He ran with the team at both the Daytona 24 earlier this year and the six-hour race at Laguna Seca delivering solid performances in both events.
"Mike is super serious and a solid driver," said Bucker. "It is really a breath of fresh air to find a young driver that is this committed to being a total professional both on and off the track. He is fast and very calculating in his approach to professional racing. I actually think he is a model to all the other drivers on how he approaches this and it's guys like this that we can win championships with."
The veteran Collard brings Petit Le Mans race-win experience to the cockpit. In 1998, he won Petit Le Mans in the GT class driving a Ferrari. A former Porsche Factory driver for many years, Manu has the experience and successes to anchor the 68 line up.
"It is fantastic to have Manu on our team," said Buckler. "He has driven for us three times before and in every case all I can say is.....amazing. He brings a ton of experience and knowledge to this young team and these guys have a real shot at the win."
This season, TRG has earned first place points four times, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mosport, Mid-Ohio and Baltimore. With a strong two-car driver lineup, it hopes to add a fifth and take that momentum into the ALMS' final 2013 season.
"Our tradition is rich here," said Buckler. "We won at Petit two years ago and came up short last year in a run at the season championship. We want this one very badly and the entire team, our Drivers, our at track team members and the staff back in Petaluma, CA is focused very intently on making that happen. We've put together a great driver lineup for a two-car team and I'm really proud of the job that the crew has done here. With all of our "back and forth" between the two series and all of the testing and events--- to have two perfect cars ready to go for this weekend is a testament to these guys and how hard they work, and I'm really proud of them."
Source: The Racers Group