Daytona24: RJ Valentine race report

Valentine's Day at Daytona; Sportscar Stalwart RJ Valentine Earns an Historic Victory At the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona Daytona Beach, FL (January 26, 2009) -- Boston-area racer, New Jersey Motorsports Park principal and businessman RJ...

Valentine's Day at Daytona; Sportscar Stalwart RJ Valentine Earns an Historic Victory At the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL (January 26, 2009) -- Boston-area racer, New Jersey Motorsports Park principal and businessman RJ Valentine claimed a thrilling victory this weekend at Daytona International Speedway in the 47th running of the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona -- the pinnacle triumph in the world of professional road racing. With one of its best driver lineups ever, Valentine and teammates Andy Lally, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Justin Marks claimed the GT victory and a ninth-place finish overall in the No. 67 TRG Construct Corps/CRG Porsche GT3.

The victory also proved historic, as Valentine at age 65, became the oldest driver to win the Rolex 24. "It doesn't get any better than this -- winning the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. In over 30 years of racing, this is the greatest thing that's happened to me. Perseverance pays off -- I've been at this a long time, this is my 23rd Daytona 24," states Valentine. "Competing with some of the best drivers in the world is such a thrill. I still can't believe it. So much of the credit goes to my teammates and TRG, led by Debra and Kevin Buckler, as well as Porsche Motorsports. Everyone involved did a tremendous job with our car."

He continued, "23 years is a long time to do anything, but to finally take the win and earn the winner's Rolex is really sweet. I've raced here at Daytona against a lot of legends -- everyone from Derek Bell to Dale Earnhardt -- but taking that checkered flag was both a huge thrill and a huge honor."

The victory also marked the third in Rolex 24 competition for Bergmeister, and the first for Long and Marks. Valentine's first victory in the Rolex 24 capped a dominating weekend for TRG, which led 301 of the 695 laps. In fact, TRG drivers never looked back after Valentine's teammate Andy Lally inherited the lead from Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 driver Kevin Roush, who pulled off the course on Lap 553 with a broken driveshaft.

With second place going to the No. 66 TRG AXA/Mitchell Rubber Porsche GT3, TRG claim a 1-2 sweep in the GT class. It also marked the second straight season two GT cars finished in the top 10 in the overall standings.

It was a battle down to the wire between the two TRG cars and Farnbacher Loles Racing. The No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 was up front a race-high 268 laps, and during the late-night and mid-morning hours, the No. 86 and Nos. 66 and 67 TRG Porsche GT3s swapped the lead multiple times.

But when Roush pulled off the track - in nearly the same fashion as Farnbacher Loles Racing's No. 87 Porsche GT3 hours earlier - during the final four hours, it gave TRG all it needed to earn the team's first Rolex 24 victory since 2003, when Bergmeister and team owner Kevin Buckler won overall and in the GT class with Michael Schrom and Timo Bernhard.

The No. 66 TRG AXA/Mitchell Rubber Porsche GT3, piloted by Spencer Pumpelly, Ted Ballou, Tim George Jr., Emmanuel Collard and Richard Lietz, finished one lap off Valentine's pace. The car actually led 152 laps - three more than the No. 67 -- and as late as the final three hours. Not only did TRG sweep the top two positions, but Porsche swept the podium. The No. 33 Wright Motorsports Phillips Way Racing Porsche GT3 to third.

The next action for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be April 26, with the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

-credit: rjvPR

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Series GRANDAM