Rolex 24 winner Buckler answers fans' questions

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 12, 2003) -- Fresh off his historic overall victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, team owner and driver Kevin Buckler took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions submitted by fans last week on ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 12, 2003) -- Fresh off his historic overall victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, team owner and driver Kevin Buckler took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions submitted by fans last week on GrandAmerican.com. Buckler responds to fans about his plans for the 2003 season, his thoughts on the new Daytona Prototypes and much more.

Q: For someone who loves road racing, but has had no experience with it except going to races as much as possible, how would you suggest they go about getting into the sport?

Buckler I started with autocrossing. It helps you learn car control, it's lots of fun and it's not too hard on the car.

#66 The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS takes the checkered flag: Kevin Buckler, Michael Schrom, Timo Bernhard, Jorg Bergmeister.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Q: Will the Porsche factory give you just about anything you need now for your team or do you still have to finance it with your own funds? Congratulations on your victory!

Buckler Most everything comes from us, the drivers and our sponsors. Porsche helps, but they have a lot of commitments.

Q: What are your "future use" expectations for your winning car? What do you do to the major components to get the car ready for another race or the museum?

Buckler The car is in Daytona USA currently, and there are people that are vying to buy the car. We're not sure what we're going to do. We can't afford to retire it, so we can either run it or sell it and replace it with another car. But we'd really like to keep it.

We do a complete engine rebuild, tranny rebuild, replace control arms, new axles, crack check/magnaflux, replace all suspension components, install a new windshield and new radiators. In the end, every nut and bolt comes off and goes back on, new paint. Essentially, it's a complete restoration.

Q: How much more potent is your car this year, under the current Grand American rules, than it was last year under the old rules?

Buckler Might be other way around - this year we had a smaller restrictor so straightline speed is probably no more than last year. The car may be better because of our own setup and small improvements by Porsche. We've lost over 1mm in restrictor, which limits top end - the bottom line is, the cars are close.

Q: Kevin, as an aspiring PCA club racer, I enjoyed your landmark victory immensely! Will we see the #68 car again or is this tub ruined?

Buckler Unfortunately, the original #68 chassis has been retired. Our new tub and chassis arrives from Porsche into San Francisco International tomorrow. We decided it's easier, quicker and better to start fresh with new chassis, replace broken components, and swap over the good ones. In the end, we end up making a new improved #68, which is sort of a bummer, because this was 2002's Daytona class winner.

Q: Kevin, I was wondering if you planned on building on your season-opening victory and competing for the GT championship? My main question is, "Will you run more Grand-Am events throughout the season?" Congrats on the victory and good luck in the rest of 2003.

Buckler We will definitely run more Grand-Am events, not sure which ones. It's always a matter of funding/sponsorship.

Q: Your thoughts on the new DP class please, and any possibility you might run in it next year??

Buckler I gotta say I like the concept. I realize there are some naysayers because of limitations of technology. Is it a step backwards or is it a way to increase fan base, attendance, viewership and understanding of sports car racing? My opinion is that it is the latter. Sports car racing always has been too complicated and too political. Simplifying the formula (more like NASCAR) seems to be a winning recipe. If it's good for the sport, I'm all for it. So I do like the new DP class. Given the opportunity, we'd definitely consider running in it.

Q: How does it feel to have a Porsche in DAYTONA USA as the overall winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona?

Buckler You know, it feels really good. I drove over there with my wife/kids on the way out of town Monday just to check out the setup and there were tons of people and they just started arriving for the Daytona 500. It should be cool.

Q: An astounding performance Kevin. Congratulations. Was your engine a little bit special for this event, and was there an even more determined effort than one would normally expect on the part of yourselves and your technical partners to win this one overall?

Buckler No, the engine was completely stock (from Porsche motorsports). It came in the new 2003 car and was completely stock. And yes, there was a more determined effort, because we knew that winning this race would put us in the history books forever. We were going to win or we were going to break. We drove flat out.

Q: Why were you guys so much faster this year? I've attended the race every year since 1995 and it seemed like the GT cars in general were just flying this year. I heard that you were in the 1:53 - 1:54 range versus a fast lap of just over 1:57 in 2002. Is the current-spec GT-3RS significantly improved over last year? Are there new regulations? Whatever the reason, congratulations on a huge win!

Buckler First of all, the track is 1.5-2 seconds faster than last year because of changes in the chicane. Secondly, the car was really good, the crew did an outstanding job of setup, and it was comfortable to drive it at the limit. Lastly, we weren't holding back. We drove qualifying lap times for 24 hours. There really aren't any significant changes from last year, only small ones.

Q: Were you ever worried that with such a comfortable lead that Murphy's Law was gonna kick in and you blew an engine or something late in the going?

Buckler Only about 1000 times.

Q: I read your brief interview and saw that you said that you thought that you had a little chance at the overall win. With the strength of your team, including the crew and also the drivers, did you really not think that a top three was out of the question? And which teams were you surprised with their finishes, good or bad?

Buckler We always thought that we had a chance, but I hate to have to eat words. Our strategy has always been to put our heads down and drive. We pushed everyone else really hard at the beginning, and sort of forced their hands - that was our strategy. I was a little surprised at the Rennwerks entry, finishing so high. Congratulations to them.

Q: When is your luck going to run out?

Buckler Our friend RJ Valentine has a great saying: "The harder you work, the luckier you get." In all seriousness, Darin, we don't believe in luck. It's not something we can count on. Everyone on the team works really, really hard.

Q: Any interest in fielding a DP entry?

Buckler Yes we do, provided we receive some financial support. We have the infrastructure and team completely in place, but would need someone to underwrite the effort. At that point, we could chase down a DP championship.

Q: Congrats Kev!!! Do you think the Grand-Am series is heading in the right direction in sports car racing with the Daytona Prototypes?

Buckler Yes I do, I like parity. Parity breeds more interested entrants, and that is what Grand-Am is after.

Q: What was the game plan going into the race?

Buckler We had a strategy, but we didn't talk about it with anyone. We decided early on that WE were going to set the pace, unlike all of the previous endurance races most of us have run, where you sort of watch the scenario unfold. We knew we had a good car, a good team, and good drivers, so why not push everybody else?

For more information on Kevin Buckler and The Racer's Group, visit www.theracersgroup.com. Additional information about the 41st Rolex 24 At Daytona and Rolex Sports Car Series is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Kevin Buckler , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Michael Schrom , Eric Gilbert