DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - February 3 - The Racers Group, a Porsche race shop headquartered at Sears Point International Raceway in Sonoma, California, brought three Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars to run at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and these cars have ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - February 3 - The Racers Group, a Porsche race shop headquartered at Sears Point International Raceway in Sonoma, California, brought three Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars to run at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and these cars have finished first, fourth and eighth in the GT class.
The #66 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, driven by Kevin Buckler, Michael Schrom, of Ghent, N.Y.; and Porsche racing stars Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister, from Germany, led the class for 14 of the 24 hours, including the last seven hours.
While Bernhard and Bergmeister were the recognized driving stars, both Buckler and Schrom drove equal stints, and the car and crew were perfect.
"While the winning car was the newest racer with the fastest drivers, the whole team did a great job, and three placements in the top ten at Daytona is more than I could have hoped for," said Buckler.
Although the Porsche had no mechanical problems during the event, the winning car had body damage on both rear fenders, suffered a flat tire early in the event, and ran the last ten hours with a cracked windshield.
In all, Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars occupied seven of the top ten GT class positions including the top four spots. The victory marks the 54th class win for Porsche at the Rolex 24 and the 28th victory by a Porsche 911-based car in the event - both Daytona records.
Porsches were significant stories in two other classes at the 2002 Rolex 24, with the Champion Racing Lola Porsche team putting forth the kind of effort that makes the 24 Hours at Daytona a great event.
A pre-race favorite, the Porsche GT1-powered Lola, with an all-star driver line-up including Hurley Haywood, Andy Wallace, Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, had to come into the pits during the pace lap due to a fouled spark plug. The difficulty of replacing the plug due to its position caused the car to miss the first 11 laps of the event. A broken transmission linkage 45 minutes later put the car 25 laps down in the first hour.
"The crew had worked so hard to prepare this car, we couldn't quit even if we wanted to," said Haywood, who leads all drivers here with five Rolex 24 wins.
"We scratched, and clawed, and fought our way back, and this fourth-place finish overall was very gratifying."
The other Porsche - this time a GTS class competitor - provided fans with some of the best racing action of the weekend - even though they did not have the finish they would hope for. The Canadian-based Bytzek Porsche GT1 battled the Gentilozzi Jaguar in the GTS class for most of the night, including about an hour of nose-to-tail racing for position between Porsche's Richard Spenard and Jaguar's Scott Pruett.
The Jaguar had brake problems, and the Porsche GT1 took a six-lap lead, but just before dawn, the Porsche had a turbocharger problem, and the battle was over.
There were other great stories in the GT class, including the second-place finish for the Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R for Gary Schultheis/Tony Kester/Sylvain Tremblay/Selby Wellman, a team assembled especially for this event. The third-place finishers, the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Ortelli/Dumas/Amorim/Fertl, overcame suspension problems and a hole in the radiator make the GT podium.
The second Racers Group car, #68 Porsche of Schumacher/Neam/Nagel/Zacharias finished fourth. The #43 Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Kyle Petty/Peter Baron/Leo Hindery/Mike Borkowski had been running third or fourth most of the night, had contact with another car during hour #21 and bent a wheel, breaking some suspension pieces. The team finished eighth in class.