Despite Mechanical Issues, Rolex 24 at Daytona Still Considered a Success for Tim George Jr. and Buoniconti Fund
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Thursday, February 4, 2010) - In his third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona, University of Miami graduate Tim George Jr. hoped to leave DIS with the victory watch that had just eluded him the past two seasons. However, mechanical issues throughout the endurance race would hinder the No. 71 Buoniconti Fund/University of Miami TRG Porsche team's otherwise strong run, resulting in a 9th place finish within the GT class. However, with the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis on the car and George Jr. willing to donate his winnings to the charity, the race was a solid run for the organization and a powerful platform for a meaningful cause.
No. 71 The No. 71 team, consisting of Tim George Jr., Spencer Pumpelly, Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard, and Bobby Labonte, had solid practice runs throughout the Roar Before the 24, at one time laying down the fastest GT lap of the day, but a difficult qualifying run lead to a lap time of 1:50.271 (116.222 MPH) placing the team 23rd on the starting grid.
With rain already falling when the green flag waved for the 47th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Pumpelly took the wheel, laying the groundwork for the long race ahead. He quickly moved the TRG Porsche up to first place in the GT division, 14th overall. Following his impressive run, Pumpelly handed over duties to Bernhard, who held the TRG Porsche in position. Dumas took the following stint, maintaining the team's first position in class, keeping the No. 71 Buoniconti Fund TRG Porsche looking strong more than five hours into the 24-hour race.
Tim George Enters The No. 71 On lap 165, under a full course caution, George Jr. took over the driver's seat. During his one-hour stint, George Jr. restarted first in the GT class twice, a first in his Rolex career. Throughout his time behind the wheel, George Jr. battled Robin Liddell for the GT division lead and 12th position overall. When his driving session ended, George handed off the No. 71 Buoniconti Fund TRG Porsche in 2nd place with 17 hours remaining.
Halfway through the race, the No. 71 TRG Porsche was running 3rd in class. Problems with a brake change put the car two laps down, but the team was confident they could make up the laps with twelve hours of competition remaining.
The overnight stints were consistent and the team performed flawless driver changes, allowing the No. 71 to make up any ground lost earlier in the race. When the sun began to rise, the TRG Porsche was leading its class by almost four laps.
Unfortunately, the team met more challenges on Sunday morning, starting with a failed air jack, which impaired the No. 71 team's pit stop. Soon after, with Labonte behind the wheel, the reserve fuel warning failed to notify the driver that gas was dwindling, and the TRG machine slowly lost power, stalling halfway around the course. At a complete stop, the No. 71 Porsche had to be towed to the infield for refueling, served a penalty for refueling off of pit lane, a significant set back under green flag conditions. Coming off a three lap lead, the team was now two laps down. However, even after losing precious time, the TRG team was still running second in their class.
Pit Stop As time passed, the grueling endurance race began to take its toll on both the car and its drivers. Running second in class and ninth overall with approximately 2 Â½ hours remaining, the clutch discs failed, sending the team into the garage. Forced to remove the transmission and replace the clutch before returning to the track, the No. 71 once again lost time and positions.
As the clock ticked down and the checkered flag waved, the No. 71 TRG Porsche team ultimately crossed the finish line 9th in the GT class and 16th overall.
Although not a storybook ending, the No. 71 Buoniconti Fund/University of Miami TRG Porsche team was happy to run a strong race and be able to build awareness for the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, which was George Jr.'s number one goal. "This race has a lot to do with luck and the cards just didn't fall in our favor this year," said George Jr. "I am disappointed about the outcome for my team, after pulling long hours of driving, working hard on the car, and coming to Daytona hoping to win; but, I appreciate their support for the Buoniconti Fund. Helping to get people out of wheel chairs is a great cause."
Teammate and 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte reflected on the experience. "It's always a lot of fun to run the 24, but when you know that what you're doing is also helping a really worthy cause, that makes the race even better. I know Tim wants to raise a lot of money for the Buoniconti Fund, and I'm glad I could be a part of that."
No. 71 TRG team owner Kevin Buckler remarked, "We've had a great relationship with Tim over the last several years and have shared some great success in the 24. Having him behind the wheel of the No. 71 for TRG in this race means even more knowing that he's out there trying to help a really worthy cause."
After a long weekend in sports cars series racing, George Jr. will be shifting gears to stock cars with Richard Childress Racing. One short week after the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the RCR Development driver will return to Daytona International Speedway to compete in the season-opener for the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards on Saturday, February 6.
-source: tim george jr PR