Daytona 24: TRG race report

TRG Takes Second, Third and Fourth in Rolex 24 At Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 27, 2008 -- TRG's seven-car Porsche assault on the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona yielded GT class results of second, third and fourth behind the ...

TRG Takes Second, Third and Fourth in Rolex 24 At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., January 27, 2008 -- TRG's seven-car Porsche assault on the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona yielded GT class results of second, third and fourth behind the race-winning No. 70 Mazda in the face of considerable adversity over the closing hours in the grueling 24-hour event.

"We knew this was going to be a big deal and a competitive deal this year, and the guys really prepared back at the shop," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "I've got a great group of guys, and they've been with me over 10 years. We put together this all-star driver lineup mixed throughout all the cars, friends of mine driving, buddies driving together, a bunch of different dynamics, and it seemed like except for one car, nearly everybody accomplished what they were after. The one poor car had an engine failure, which I felt terrible about. All my friends were in that car."

"We finished second, third and fourth, which was unbelievable. We had three cars in the top-four, I'm sure that's never been done. We were one cooling system away from finishing 1-2-3, but I've got to say that I don't feel bad, because the Mazda performed flawlessly. The team did a good job and they deserved to win. We're in this for the championship hunt. We got our points, we were careful and we're going to go to Homestead, the next race. I just can't be prouder of the performance from everyone. I'm honored to be the leader of the ship, but I'm really just a cog in the wheel this weekend."

The No. 66 Marquis Jet/Resorts International/Mitchell Rubber/Total Lubricants/IPC Porsche GT3 of co-drivers Bryce Miller, Ted Ballou, Andy Lally and Porsche factory driver Richard Westbrook carried the banner for TRG with a second-place performance. The car led several times throughout the 24 hours in a mixture of weather conditions, and was a legitimate contender for the victory in the race's final hours, and the car led as late as the 18th hour. Unfortunately for the team, persistent radiator problems forced the drivers to drive conservatively over the remaining laps and the No. 66 Porsche simply could not challenge the front-running Mazda.

"It's an incredible feeling," said a relieved Miller after the race. "To do it with a lineup of drivers like this is just awesome. To have the car that we had, barring the radiator problem and the oil temp problems, we were the car to beat. It's exciting stuff. I'm really happy to be with Ted Ballou for the year and to capture the points in the opening race and carry that with me. Last year, I kind of missed out on that."

"This is a fantastic start to the season," Ballou added. "I can't think of a better way to bring momentum into the season and really start well and be able to carry the momentum into the season. We're really fortunate to have everything hold together and be able to finish second. We're very excited to be where we are today. This is incredible to be here standing here today in second place. The team did a great job, and obviously, my driving partners did a great job."

Despite being nagged by the same radiator issues and forced into the same ultra-conservative strategy to survive the race, the No. 67 Monster Cable Need for Speed Porsche GT3 pairing of Tim George Jr., Spencer Pumpelly, Bryan Sellers, Emmanuel Collard and Romain Dumas came home an impressive third. In the overnight hours, the No. 67 machine led the GT class by more than a full lap at one point.

"It was a relief," Pumpelly said. "We fought until the very end. I was sick. We had to nurse it home for hours and hours. We came to win, and we weren't able to, but at the same time, there were a lot of positives. We started the season higher in the points. We had a really good effort. The team worked very well, so my enthusiasm and optimism is very high. I'm truly honored to be a part of an effort like this. There's nothing else like it."

"It was definitely a tough battle out there," George added. "We were a little cautious at the end. The engine temp kept going up really high, the oil temp, and we basically had to limp it around two minutes for the last hour and a half. I've got to thank TRG and Kevin Buckler, and everybody on the pit crew that made this thing happen, all the sponsors."

Despite falling well down in the running order and losing several laps to the leaders in an on-track altercation with a Ferrari, the No. 64 J Lowe Racing/TRG Globus/Adopt A Pig/CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA Group/F1 Air/SRS/NMT Porsche GT3 of co-drivers Jim Lowe, Jim Pace, Tim Sugden, RJ Valentine and Johannes van Overbeek fought all the way back to finish fourth in class.

"How do you describe exhausted, exhilarated and overwhelmed all in one word.?" Lowe questioned. "To be where we are is absolutely phenomenal. There's a sense of disappointment, just a little bit, because you'd like to be up there spraying champagne like we were last year. But if you think about how far we've come in such a short time, I've got to be happy. As Jim Pace says, 'Standing in the sunshine on Sunday afternoon in Daytona is just a beautiful thing.'"

"Jim Lowe put together a really good effort along with Kevin Buckler with J Lowe Racing and TRG," Pace added. "It was a great lineup of drivers and the crew has been outstanding. Other than one little glitch in the night, which was sort of traffic-related, it was an excellent race. On Sunday morning, we were in contention for a podium finish, the car was running well, and I had a great time. I'm real happy for the other guys, but what goes around comes around. We had a great time last year with a podium finish (third) last year, we were just that close. We'll see them next year."

"The guys got tangled up in an unfortunate wreck," Buckler contributed. "This goofball was driving the Ferrari all over the track throughout the race. I don't know who it was, but he ran RJ (Valentine) off the track and he got into a little accident. I kind of expected that they would have a shot at the win and was really rooting for them. This was really disappointing for me because this was an all star lineup, a group of my friends and they deserved better.

Jim Lowe is an awesome guy. He put his head down and committed to make this happen. I committed to him, and man---we went for it!. Then, after all that adversity today, they rallied back to finish fourth, nearly displacing one of the other team cars in the process. It was close. If they had a couple more laps, they would have had the other cars. I couldn't be prouder of those guys and my association with J Lowe Racing."

Finishing 18th in the GT class was the No. 65 Lavender Bridal Salon Porsche GT3 of Tom Atherton, Jason Daskalos, Russ Oasis and Jim Stout. Whereas the No. 64, 66 and 67 machines never went behind the pit wall, the No. 65 Porsche did make a trip or two to the garage area. Nevertheless, the team kept fighting throughout the 24 hours to claim a hard-earned result.

"We hung in there," Atherton said. "We were in the garage a few times throughout the race, but it's one of those things where a lot of my co-drivers and me, it's our first time, so it's a big learning curve for us. We just hung in there. We slowly moved up, so we did good. I'm a rookie to driving a Porsche, a rookie to Daytona, and it's been fantastic. I've been racing Vipers for the last five or six years. It's a big difference for me to jump from a Viper Competition Coupe to a (Porsche) 997, but it's been a lot of fun. Kevin and his guys did a fantastic job. They're a great group of guys to work with."

Likewise, the No. 68 ACG Motorsports/Cohen Financial/Thomas Weisel Partners/Muffin Top Racing Porsche GT3 of co-drivers Michael Auriemma, Michael Gomez, John Mayes, Brent Milner and Scott Schroeder also battled throughout the 24 hours. They overcame their own trips to the garage to finish 25th in class.

"We've had a tough race," said Milner. "It's been a little disappointing from a driver perspective, but the car itself was beautiful. We're happy to be a part of the TRG team and we're happy to have all our sponsors on board. We're looking forward to another run at it next year, and hopefully a few less mistakes."

Two of the seven TRG entries were not running at the finish. The No. 62 Burtin Engineering/Foametix/ Porsche GT3 of co-drivers Jack Baldwin, Claudio Burtin, Martin Ragginger, Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski retired with an engine failure a few hours before the checkered flag flew. The car was scored 28th in class.

The No. 63 The DigiTrust Group/Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Impremedia/Reigel Tuning/Adam's Polishes/La Vi Porsche GT3 of co-drivers Pierre Borque, Duncan Ende, Hima Maher and Ron Yarab Jr. had a short race, retiring after just over one hour with an engine failure of its own. The team was scored 41st in class.

-credit: trg

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Emmanuel Collard , Kevin Buckler , Claudio Burtin , Johannes van Overbeek , Spencer Pumpelly , Jim Pace , Romain Dumas , Tim Sugden , Bryan Sellers , Michael Auriemma , Hima Maher , Jim Lowe , Russ Oasis , Duncan Ende , Ted Ballou , Scott Schroeder , Brent Milner , Michael Gomez , Martin Ragginger , Richard Westbrook , John Mayes , Jason Daskalos , Scott Tucker , Tim George Jr. , Ron Yarab Jr. , Tom Atherton , Jim Stout , Ed Zabinski , Bryce Miller