Daytona 24: The Racer's Group preview

The Racer's Group launches three-car assault on Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Sonoma, Ca. -- Jan. 24, 2003 -- The Racer's Group packed its trailers and sent them on the road towards Daytona today, in preparation for the 41st running of the Rolex...

The Racer's Group launches three-car assault on Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Sonoma, Ca. -- Jan. 24, 2003 -- The Racer's Group packed its trailers and sent them on the road towards Daytona today, in preparation for the 41st running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In the trailers were the team's new 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, as well as the 2002 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans winning cars. In anticipation of the race on Feb. 1-2, team owner and lead driver Kevin Buckler was optimistic about the team's chances.

"Naturally, we're excited about the Daytona race -- but we're confident about it. Everyone that was with us last year when we won the race is back this year, from the tire guy to the truck driver to the four drivers in car #66. The competition is strong, but we're absolutely prepared for what's ahead. We like our chances, and we're going to Daytona to try to repeat. Michael, Timo, Jorg and I are back."

Buckler continued, "Last year, we won at Le Mans because we were more efficient in the pits than the rest of the teams -- we won by a margin of one minute -- and the same strategy applies to the Rolex. 24 Hours seems like a long time, but you have to look at the whole race as a math equation -- if another team is even half of a second faster on pit stops than us through the course of the race, and there are 20 pit stops, that's 10 seconds that we have to make up on the track. Going 24 Hours straight without any mistakes is hard, but we found out last year that being totally prepared is the only way to win."

Buckler expounded on the competition in this year's race. "Last year, there was only one Ferrari for us to contend with, and frankly, it wasn't that fast. This year, there are four Ferraris, and they're full of really fast drivers. Also, we've got all the Porsches to compete against, and of course, it's hard to beat a Porsche in an endurance event. We're confident because we've got twelve strong drivers in our three cars. I was so proud of the performance of all of the drivers. Michael only came in for the last day of testing and was doing qualifying times by lap #5. As usual, the Porsche Factory drivers Timo and Jorg were flawless. The #67 guys were flying and all of them worked together really well. Bobby Julien and David Lacey, our 2 Canadians, are teammates with Doncaster Racing in the Grand Am Cup and their speed and experience really showed. Tom Nastasi and Andrew Davis were absolutely perfect.

Andrew Davis, car #67's fastest driver at the Daytona test, felt comfortable in the car. "I turned a 1:54.1 in testing, and what's great is that I held back just a little. All four of us were very comfortable in the car, and for me, not having a lot of seat time in a GT3 RS, I was happy to get up to speed so quickly. What's even better is that every one of the guys in the car with me -- Dave Lacey, Tom Nastasi and Bobby Julien -- were all within tenths of my time. The fact that we're all so quick, and are comfortable driving at race pace, means that we're ready for the race. Come race day, we're going to put our heads down, race smart, and let the car do the work."

3 of the drivers in Car 68 have so much Daytona experience that I can even keep track-- you can't beat the experience of some of these guys. RJ Valentine in #68 is back at Daytona for the 18th year, Jim Michaelian is one of my previous co-drivers and is awesome and Tom Hessert has won his class at Daytona 3 times. What's really cool is that the 4th driver is Tom Jr.'s son, Tom Hessert III, who is a current Dirt track star and is only 16 years old. We tested with Tom last week at Moroso and he was spectacular."

The lineup for the three-car The Racer's Group assault on the 41st Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is:

#66 -- 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, CA
Michael Schrom, Ghent, NY
Jorg Bergmeister, Langenfeld, Germany
Timo Bernhard, Miesau, Germany

#67, 2002 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and winner of the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans
Tom Nastasi, Stamford, CT
Bobby Julien, Toronto, ON
Dave Lacey, Toronto, ON
Andrew Davis, Lilburn, GA

#68 -- 2002 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and winner of 2002 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona
RJ Valentine, Hingham, MA
Jim Michaelian, Long Beach, CA
Tom Hessert Jr., Cherry Hill, NJ
Tom Hessert III, Cherry Hill, NJ

-trg-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Kevin Buckler , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Michael Schrom , Tom Nastasi , Andrew Davis , Dave Lacey , Jim Michaelian , Tom Hessert III , Tom Hessert