TRG Passes "Roar Before the Rolex 24" Test With Flying Colors DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 6, 2008 -- In what might be the most massive undertaking in team history, TRG put the finishing touches on a seven-car assault toward the GT class...
TRG Passes "Roar Before the Rolex 24" Test With Flying Colors
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 6, 2008 -- In what might be the most massive undertaking in team history, TRG put the finishing touches on a seven-car assault toward the GT class victory in the 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona in three weeks with an outstanding effort in the three-day "Roar Before the Rolex 24" test.
All seven of the of the TRG Porsche GT3s ran strong and consistent times throughout the test that concluded on Sunday, and only one car had an on-track incident, which came in Sunday's final session. Porsche factory driver Richard Westbrook posted the team's best lap of the three day test on Saturday morning with a lap at 1:51.270 (115.179 mph) in the No. 66 Mitchell Rubber/Marquis Jet/Elf Oils/IPC Porsche GT3. It was the fifth-quickest lap of the entire test for the GT class.
"These three days went great," stated TRG owner Kevin Buckler. "I've been to a lot of tests here, and we've run the race 13 times, and this is the best test we've ever had. It was definitely the most difficult, with the most cars and the most people and the most top-level drivers, but we just had nothing go wrong. An errant driver in a DP ran into one of our cars in the very last session, but really, that was it for the weekend. It's amazing with seven cars. The mechanical prep was great and the team did a fantastic job. I couldn't be more pleased. We're going away with a lot of good data and information for our race weekend and we're ready. We've got a lot to do still. We're going to take them back to California and rip them apart, but I'm very pleased with everybody."
Westbrook shared the No. 66 machine with 2007 GT ace Bryce Miller and Ted Ballou--who will be the car's full-time drivers in 2008--as well as three-time Rolex Series class champion Andy Lally, whose full-time responsibilities this year will be in the TRG Motorsports entry in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Westbrook was one of two Porsche factory drivers to participate in the Daytona test with the team, and will be one of four Porsche factory pilots to drive TRG Porsches in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 26-27. The other Porsche factory drivers are Martin Ragginger--who also participated in the Daytona test--and Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard, who were not present at the test.
"Being given a drive in car number 66, I was real excited," said Westbrook. "After spending three days here, that excitement level is even higher now because I really feel comfortable with the team and my teammates. I've got an excellent three drivers partnering me, and our crew is superb. This is my first drive for TRG and they've been absolutely superb. We're looking really, really good. We covered so much ground over the three days with long stints and whatnot. We're looking really good. The confidence is very, very high at the moment. We can walk away from this test feeling very, very confident."
The full-time drivers of the No. 66 team were equally confident about their chances heading into the Rolex 24 in three weeks.
"We've had a great weekend with Richard Westbrook on the team and Andy," said Ballou. "They give us a great experience base to draw from and Bryce has been very quick so far. I just get to follow the lead of the more experienced drivers. It's a great opportunity for me. Richard says we're going to win, so I feel good. I think the team's strong. We should have a good shot of being on the podium."
Miller also turned in a spectacular drive all weekend running up front for all three days.
"We're all approaching this with the mindset of a victory in hand," added Miller. "It's a competitive bunch of guys. Richard Westbrook is a double SuperCup champion and Andy has won this event before and so has the team. They want to win it again and I sure want to win it. I haven't taken that spot here. It's a good crew to be surrounded by, a good support structure to have around you and a competitive environment, so I think that's a good formula for success."
Just a tick behind Westbrook's best lap was Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 64 Globus/Adopt A Pig/CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA Grp/F1 Air/SRS/NMT Porsche GT3 for J Lowe Racing/TRG. Van Overbeek's best time was 1:51.281 (115.168 mph), good for sixth-fastest of the GT class in the three-day test. Van Overbeek was sharing the No. 64 machine with the car's two full-time drivers in 2008--Jim Lowe and Jim Pace--as well as Englishman Tim Sugden and long-time TRG stalwart RJ Valentine. The veteran racer was quick to point out that outright speed may not be the most important ingredient to success in the twice-around-the-clock event.
"This will be my 22nd Daytona 24 hour and I've driven everything but the space shuttle here," Valentine said. "The reality is that there's no magic to it. It isn't always the blindingly fastest car that wins it. You get this comfortable feeling about the way everybody's been doing everything with this team. There's a lot of good synergy, there's a lot of good karma and everybody gets along. There are no egos. A lot of that has to do with where you can finish. Ultimately, it's like going to Las Vegas. There are 15 cars that can win this thing."
While the No. 66 and No. 67 cars were both top-six performers in the test, the team's other five entries also performed almost flawlessly throughout the "Roar Before the Rolex 24." The No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 was shared in the test by the car's 2008 full-time drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr., as well Bryan Sellers. Pumpelly will share the No. 67 on a full-time basis in 2008 with Tim George Jr.
I have one Rolex and I expect to have two before we're done," Pumpelly said. "The 24-hour race is always a gamble. All you can do is go 'all in' with the best cards that you can get, but luck still has a huge part to do with it. Anyone that's ever won this race has been lucky and anyone who's ever lost this race has been unlucky. You can only expect to show up with a really good team, a really good group of drivers, a really good crew and really good strategy and hope for the best. We've got that here. We're going 'all in' with pocket aces here, so we'll see."
"We did pretty well this last session, took P4," George added. "We figured the car out a lot more. I'm feeling a lot more confident than I was in the past. It's looking good for us. We have a couple of factory guys coming in and we're looking forward to their arrival. Unfortunately, they couldn't be here during the test days, but we're looking forward to putting together a good solid effort. I've got to thank TRG and everybody here for helping to put that together."
In the team's No. 62 Burtin Engineering/Foametrix/Westfund.com Porsche GT3 at the test were Claudio Burtin, Scott Tucker, Ed Zabinski, Ragginger and Jack Baldwin, who claimed a GTU class victory in the 24-hour race at Daytona in 1984.
"Thinking back, I've driven everything here in every kind of conditions," Baldwin said. "This year, when I sit back and look at the experience I'm having with TRG, it's such a great team. The job that's being done here is amazing and it's more fun. I'm having more fun this year than I've ever had just as a whole experience. The car's fun to drive, and I'm really happy about everything. I have to say that this year is turning out to be the most fun. I've got a great team, a great car, check all the boxes. This is cool."
"The testing was very positive for me," contributed Ragginger. "The car is really pretty good and I like the track. I was fast from the beginning, and I think the last tenths are coming with experience, because this is my first time here. I'm looking forward to the race. If every driver from our team can improve a bit and for the race, and if we can finish it, we can be in the front. I'm looking forward to it."
The team's No. 63 The DigiTrust Group/Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Impremedia/Reigel Tuning/Adam's Polishes/La Vi Porsche was co-driven in the test by Ron Yarab, Pierre Borque, Duncan Ende and Hima Maher.
"Once you get over the excitement of it all and you get in the car and start lapping, it's great," Maher said. "Up until then, the energy and the vibe creates butterflies in the belly. The track's very different. It's very traffic busy. The banking is not that dramatic, but the transition from the banking to the infield is where you've got to make all your speed and your moves. This is my first time at Daytona doing the Rolex, and we're excited. The test has gone great. Nobody has put a foot wrong. It's good momentum going into the race. I feel like we're going to finish and if we finish, we'll finish up there."
Tom Atherton, Jim Stout, Jason Daskalos, sports car legend Tommy Archer and Russ Oasis shared the No. 65 Lavender Bridal Salon Porsche GT3 at the test. All five drivers successfully adapted to the Porsche from Dodge Vipers with which they previously had the most experience and are looking for big things in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"We've learned an incredible amount this weekend," said Oasis. "We've learned a lot about setup, we've learned a lot about making driver changes, and we're working with Andy and Spencer on some setup issues and sharing information. It's been fantastic. I think we're in good shape for the race. I think if we keep our nose clean and stay out of trouble, I think we'll be in the hunt. Anything in the top 10 would be incredible. I really think anything in the top 10 would just be out of this world."
Rounding out the seven-car TRG lineup were Michael Gomez, Michael Auriemma, Brent Milner, Scott Schroeder and John Mayes in the No. 68 Porsche.
"The team has really congealed well over the last three days," Mayes said. "We've knocked a number of seconds off our times, and TRG has been great in providing all of the things we need to do that. The car is running excellent. We started out very well, went through a few changes, and now I think we have the car spot on. I think we're in a good position for the 24. We're shooting for no less than a top 10, and we're really hoping that when the sun comes up on Sunday morning, we find ourselves in a surprise position."
With seven almost scratch-free cars now back on their trailers and headed back to TRG headquarters in Petaluma, Calif. The team's focus shifts to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in three weeks.
"We're going to prepare everything to the nines," Buckler said. "I mean, our whole deal is, I want to be prepared to win with every car. That's what we will do. We'll come down here with the very best we can in terms of preparation and teamwork. I call a lot of the guys and see how they're doing on their mental prep and fitness training, and they started calling me 'Sarge' this weekend. We're going to prepare all seven of those cars with the ability for them to win the race. At the drop of the green flag, it's going to be up to the drivers and the crew to do a good job."
TRG KONI CHALLENGE CARS HAVE FIRST OUTING FOR 2008
As if seven Rolex Series GT cars weren't enough, TRG also fielded two Porsche 997s in three days of KONI Challenge Series testing at Daytona in preparation for the season-opening Fresh from Florida 200 on Friday, January 25. While the team did suffer an engine failure in one of the cars, both cars posted competitive lap times in the session.
"We had two KONI Challenge cars here this weekend and it was a little bit of a tough weekend," Buckler said. "We've been struggling with the BOSCH system since we started with it over a year ago and we still have issues. The cars, of course, handle really well. We're down on power with the Porsches here compared to the Mustangs, and adding the extra weight to our car kind of hurts our chances even further. Blowing up an engine this weekend means it wasn't the greatest weekend, although the entire team did a great job. It's a great series and a great, competitive group of guys in that class. I'm looking forward to running and I just want to be competitive."
The team will field three KONI Challenge Series cars for the full 2008 season, with Ende co-driving the No. 39 The DigiTrust Group/Adam's Polishes Porsche 997 with Pumpelly, a combination of Lally and Peter Ludwig sharing the No. 41 Cohen Financial Porsche 997 with Schroeder as well as Sellers and Dan D iLeo in the No. 42 Maxwell Paper car.
"This weekend got off to a good start," Schroeder said. "We rolled off the truck with a good car, did some minor changes to it, and we had top-10 times almost every session. We have a good race car. It might not be the fastest car on the track, but it's very consistent and should be a strong race car when we come back here for the race."
"The KONI Challenge car is brand new," Ende added. "The first time we ran it was on Friday. We have had to work out initial bugs, but we're trying a few different things with it and I think we're going to have a really solid car for the season."