Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Buckler's Mid-Ohio Memories Drives TRG's One-Two Onslaught
After consecutive one-two finishes at both Lime Rock Park and Mosport, one might think that TRG team owner Kevin Buckler collects lucky pennies. The truth is, he collects trophies. Buckler has collected as much hardware as anyone in sports car racing over the last 20 years, including an impressive win as a driver in 2002 at this week's American Le Mans Series event at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.
"That seems like such a long time ago," said Buckler, "but it was a big win for us. The prior race at Infineon, I managed to put the car on the pole, but didn't get the win. But I knew we had a good car and the next race at Mid-Ohio, we proved it."
What Buckler and Team TRG are hoping to prove this week is that the trophy collecting tradition will continue. At Mosport, TRG became the first GT class team ever to record back-to-back one-two finishes. That put them in some pretty illustrious company. The last full-season, full-class entrant to accomplish the feat was Audi Sport North America in 2008 with back to back one-two's at Road Atlanta and Mosport.
"Wow. That's some pretty good company for our brand to be in," said Buckler, "particularly when most consider the Audi factory effort the most formidable in ALMS history."
So the question arises - can TRG make it three consecutive one-two finishes at Mid-Ohio? If so, it would become the first team since Audi's auspicious run in 2008 to accomplish that feat (not including Corvette's one-make GT1 competition) and the only team EVER to do it in GT history.
The accomplishment of back-to-back one-two finishes have not been lost on the drivers.
"We have a ton of momentum coming off of back to back podiums in our No. 68 PR Newswire/ South African Airways TRG Porsche," said Dion von Moltke, who won at Lime Rock with a last lap pass of teammate Spencer Pumpelly, who returned the feat with a last lap pass of von Moltke at Mosport to win. "I am really determined to keep our good run going here. It very well could be another last lap nail biter at this race."
Von Moltke, who will drive once again with Mosport teammate Marc Bunting, will get very little argument from Pumpelly, who copilots the No. 66 Racer's Roast/Fox River Coffee Porsche 911 GT3 Cupcar with Duncan Ende.
"The back to back one-two finish is a significant milestone for our team," said Pumpelly. "It speaks to the depth we have built over the years. You can't have two strong cars in a competitive class without a great organization. Taking the two top spots in back-to-back races puts an exclamation point on that. I am really proud of the teamwork and the crew."
"I think it's pretty safe to say that last month's racing provided two of the most dramatic, possibly the most dramatic, finishes in GTC history," added Ende. "When you think that both of them have been between teammates, well that's even more amazing. The team is in a great position headed into the second half of the season, and with some luck Spence and I hope to be in a position to bring home the title when the checkers fly at Petit."
Just as significant as the back-to-back victories, as Ende alluded, is that the past two race performances have put TRG in the team GTC class lead by one point over last year's champion Black Swan Racing. It has also moved Pumpelly, Ende and von Moltke into a three-way tie for second in the driver's championship behind defending Black Swan champion driver Tim Pappas. So how important is another win, not to mention the possibility of an American Le Mans Series season championship to team owner Kevin Buckler?
"I've worked very hard and been very fortunate to be in this position," shared Buckler. "Winning Petit Le Mans last year was a huge thrill. It's one of the biggest sports car races in the world. Claiming back-to-back wins the last two races is huge. But winning a season-long series championship is what all of us work for. We're going to work hard toward that end. We know nothing will be simply given to us. The entire team is on its game right now and it is up to us to go out and make it happen."
And who knows, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course may be as kind to Buckler and Company this week as it was in 2002 when he drove his Porsche into victory lane in an epic battle against the Porsche Factory team of Timo Bernhard and Joerg Bergmeister. If so, the tradition of collecting trophies - not lucky pennies - will continue,