TRG OPENS 2010 WITH STRONG DAYTONA 24 LINEUP
Petaluma, CA (December 24, 2009)- Looking to defend their Rolex 24 at Daytona GT victory just eleven months ago, The Racer's Group will begin 2010 with a strong lineup headed in to the Roar Before the 24 test days in early January.
As the three-time champions of the famed 24-hour classic, including once overall, and winner of seven podiums in the last eight races, TRG has always had a strong history at Daytona. 2010 will be no different, featuring everything from Rolex champions, to Porsche factory drivers, and even a NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.
Starting with the famed No. 66, TRG will be joining forces with another recognized Porsche sportscar team, Flying Lizard Motorsports. As the reigning two-time champions in the GT2 category of the American Le Mans Series, Flying Lizard Motorsports has teamed up with TRG for this one-time event due to the team's vast experience and success at the track.
Driving the ShoreTel-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car will be several familiar names to sportscar fans everywhere. Seth Neiman, Flying Lizard team principal, will return to Daytona after competing several years ago. Joining Seth will be Johannes van Overbeek, who will be making his third appearance with TRG. Johannes previously finished on the podium in TRG's No. 64 in 2007. The team will also include Porsche factory drivers Joerg Bermeister and Patrick Long. Bergmeister and Long are coming off of an extremely successful 2009 with both teams, first winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona with TRG, and the American Le Mans Series GT2 championship with Flying Lizard.
For team owner Kevin Buckler, the opportunity to pair with such a successful brand is a great show of comraderie for Porsche.
"Joining with Seth and all of the guys at Flying Lizard is a welcome opportunity for everyone. The Flying Lizard organization is the only other current Porsche GT-style team to have had such a long and healthy run in sports car racing, and I couldn't be more proud to run with them and mutually achieve another victory for Porsche," Buckler said. "We have a great history with Johannes, and especially Patrick and Joerg, and I'm sure we'll put on one heck of a show. And it will be great racing with my friends!!"
As the reigning race champion, TRG's No. 67 Porsche boasts an equally impressive lineup of drivers. Returning to the team for his third straight Rolex 24, Tim George, Jr. will take a break from his full-time stock car career to get back behind the wheel of a TRG Porsche. George, Jr. was the Rolex Series Rookie-of-the-Year in 2008, and in his last two Rolex 24 races has finished third and second. Joining George, Jr. will be two of his former teammates, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly. Lally and Pumpelly, having re-signed with TRG for 2010, will bring some strong credentials to the lineup with Lally looking to defend his victory at Daytona last year and collect his third Rolex watch. Pumpelly, a Rolex 24 victor in 2006, will be looking to win a second watch with his former teammates. Additionally, TRG will be bringing on Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler. Henzler is the 2005 Rolex 24 Champion, and one of the best Porsche drivers in the world.
Finally, joining TRG's No. 67 will be NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte. Labonte, TRG Motorsports' full-time driver in the No. 71 Sprint Cup Series car, has driven the race three-times previously, though never in the GT category.
"I'm really excited to come see what the other side of TRG is all about. We've had a great experience in Sprint Cup together, but they're most known for sports car racing and I can't wait to see that side from the driver's seat," Labonte said. "Driving a Porsche in the GT category will be a whole new experience, and I got some great seat time in at the tire test, so it should be a great day."
For Buckler, seeing so many familiar faces is a welcome sight for car 67.
"The 67 will have a great shot at repeating a victory. Andy and Spencer have been there before with us and know what it takes, and I'm excited to finally have Wolf in the car with us," Buckler said. "Bobby has proven to me over the last year that he knows what it takes to drive "endurance" smart, and we really want to give Tim an opportunity to take the win this year. Tim has seen the podium from two different positions now, and we'd like to finally show it to him from the top!"
Additionally, TRG will be bringing a familiar car from 2009, TRG's No. 63. As a regular at TRG, driver Henri Richard will be running in his first ever Rolex 24 race. Following a strong 2009 season of racing around the world, the Frenchman is up to the challenge, having driven a number of Ferrari Challenge and FIA GT events around the world last season, as well as driving some impressive stints with TRG at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Joining Richard will be 2009 TRG teammate Rene Villeneuve. Hailing from Southern California, Villeneuve joins the team with the most Daytona experience, and will be bringing his usual team of fans from the Polizei 144 brand. The duo will be teamed with drivers Zak Brown, Richard Dean and Mark Thomas. Brown, a fellow Ferrari Challenge competitor, has worked with Henri for a number of seasons and looks forward to a strong debut. Dean, a professional driver from the UK has strong endurance racing credentials, including a win at Le Mans, and Canadian native Thomas has competed in a number of International GT races, including a win at Spa, and also looks forward to a strong debut.
For Buckler, the opportunity to bring the experience of a lifetime to this group is the sort of endeavor in which he relishes.
"Three of these guys will be racing for the first time at this event, and that's the sort of experience that I really enjoy providing. There's simply nothing like walking the pits at 3AM and realizing that you're still part of this spectacle, and I know the guys will have a great time." Buckler said. "Henri has been a great friend of TRG's since we first met, and I have to say the guy is pretty darn fast. It's great to have Rene and all of the guys at Polizei 144 back, and given his strong experience I'm sure he'll deliver a solid effort. Zak and I raced against each other in the 90's and he was always really fast so it is great to be racing together now. Richard Dean is a strong professional driver from the UK with solid endurance racing credentials and a Le Mans GT2 win. Mark is new to the team but certainly not new to racing, as a consistant front runner in FIA GT and a big win at Spa last year. I really look forward to watching him come in to his own at this event, as well as showing him what we can do together."
Looking ahead to January, there are still a number of big announcements to come. With a full-time staff still hard at work for some possible new entries, the atmosphere at TRGis filled with promise.
"Everyone has their heads down and is hard at it. We're the defending winners of this race, and I want to come in swinging and ready again this year. There are a number of good teams and cars aiming for us, but I know we have what it takes to put on a winning effort."
TRG was founded in 1993 and has been competing at the top level of motor racing ever since. The team has the most wins of any team in the Grand-Am Rolex Series with 26, including the 2005 and 2006 Rolex Series GT championship trophy to go along with wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.