VICTORY COUNT MOUNTS AS TRG WINS AT MID-OHIO - THIRD WIN OVERALL LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 24, 2007) -- Team TRG showed its collective muscle by claiming a dominant win in the Rolex Series GT-class as well as a second-place finish in the Koni ...
VICTORY COUNT MOUNTS AS TRG WINS AT MID-OHIO - THIRD WIN OVERALL
LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 24, 2007) -- Team TRG showed its collective muscle by claiming a dominant win in the Rolex Series GT-class as well as a second-place finish in the Koni Challenge GS division at this weekend's EMCO Gears Classic. The scenic Ohio-countryside venue was Round Nine of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.
TRG drivers RJ Valentine and Andy Lally piloted the No. 66 CRG Porsche GT3 entry to a commanding win on the twisting Mid-Ohio road course for their third GT-class victory of the 2007 campaign and third title in the past four races. Including recent wins at Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca, TRG becomes the first three-time GT-class winner this season.
Lining up 23rd on the starting grid, RJ Valentine took the green flag and then took advantage of an early race full course caution to execute a driver change and hand the controls over to Lally. With numerous Mid-Ohio wins to his credit, Lally utilized his experience on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course to methodically pick-off a succession of contenders and climb into the Top-10 within the first 30-minutes of the two-and-a-half hour long endurance race.
With the precision of a surgeon, Lally carved his way through the lead pack to secure second-place near mid-point of the race and proceeded to shadow then-leader Leighton Reese in the No. 06 Banner Racing entry.JLally would make his move for the lead with a decisive Turn-7 pass around Reese on lap 61.
Lally led the final 32 laps, at one point by as much as 37-seconds, until a late race full course caution would bunch up the leaders. Lally was the class of the field however, controlling the final six minutes of the race to post a 1.195-second margin of victory over the No.70 SpeedSource entry of second-place finisher Sylvain Tremblay.
"We had no radio with 20 minutes to go, but TRG again gave us the best car in the field," said Lally, who led a race-high 34 laps averaging 84.297 mph. "My guys did a super phenomenal job in getting everything going. This is win number three this year and we're moving up in the points."
Valentine explained that his role heading into this race did not differ from any other this season. "Our strategy is always that I get out on the first yellow," Valentine said. "Today it came early and we stuck with our strategy. Look, at my age I am just happy to be here racing against such great and talented guys. The older I get, the better I was. I know I am not as quick as these guys, but I also know what my job is and I love it. Every Monday morning after a race I pinch myself because being part of TRG and racing with these guys is a dream come true."
"What an unbelievable weekend," said TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "A second in yesterday's Koni Challenge and a fantastic victory for the No. 66 car with RJ and Andy is just incredible. The effort by the entire team was flawless. RJ drove great all weekend and as the closer, Andy really took it to 'em."
In climbing from 23rd starting spot to the first-place finish, Valentine and Lally claim the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award. With the win, the pair jumps to a second-place tie in the GT championship -- only seven points out of the lead. The win also bolsters TRG's claim of being the winningest team in Grand-Am history with 23.
A victim of some bad racing luck was the TRG No. 67 NETTS/Louis Boston Porsche GT3 entry of Spencer Pumpelly and Mark Greenberg. The driver duo were running in a strong third-place and were in-line for a likely podium finish when a broken shift cable ended their day after 79 laps and relegated them to a 15th-place finish.
"Mark and Spencer were fantastic all weekend and the car was nearly perfect," stated Buckler. "I really enjoy working with both of them and was so hoping for their first podium finish for TRG this year.JWe have a few more races left and I know we can do it."
Rounding out TRG's three-car charge was the No. 65 Maxwell Paper Products Porsche GT3 driven by teammates Dan Dileo and Ross Smith. It was a tough weekend for the No. 65 car with a couple trips to the gravel trap and some minor contact. Overall, Smith and Dileo persevered to finish in 16th-place.
"I'm looking forward to working closely with Dan and Ross so we can put them back on the podium like we did at Laguna Seca," said Buckler.
TRG AGAIN ON PODIUM WITH SECOND-PLACE FINISH IN KONI CHALLENGE
In addition to the GT-class win at Mid-Ohio, TRG also fielded four cars and claimed a second-place podium finish in the Koni Challenge GS division race.
For the Koni Challenge event, Andy Lally teamed up with Ted Ballou in the No. 41 TRG Mitchell Global/Carlsen Porsche 997 to lead the northern California-based team to a strong second-place finish and its third podium of '07. Ballou took the green flag and again ran strong to stay on the lead lap and turn the car over to Lally in a position to strike. Lally would not disappoint, posting the fastest lap of the race and methodically picking off competitors to move into second-place prepared for a late-race showdown.
Over the final five laps Lally would nip at the heels of race leader Ken Wilden in the No. 52 Rehagen Racing entry, only to have his efforts stalled by two late race full course yellows. Lally would run out of laps and finish second, a scant .863-seconds behind race winner Wilden.
"TRG gave me the best car in the field today," said Lally.J"There was one spot on the track where Kenny (Wilden) was weak and I tried to take advantage of it. I was able to jam my nose in there and get next to him a few times, but he did a good job holding me off. Ted did an awesome job at the beginning of the race to run strong and keep the car clean, so here we are on the podium again."
"Ted and Andy really gave us an exciting race," said TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "Ted did a great job as usual, keeping the car on the lead lap and handing it over to Andy who ran his usual blazing pace. If not for those late race cautions, we're pretty sure we would have won."
The No. 39 car for TRG was the Carlsen Porsche/Adam's Polishes/DigiTrust entry of Duncan Ende and Grant Maiman. Ende and Maiman were very fast at TRG's recent Mid-Ohio testing and were expected to contend throughout the weekend. Unfortunately the time spent repairing some damage from the Mosport event and a rare fan-belt problem during the race didn't allow the pair to show their speed or true potential as they have done in several previous races.
"I feel terrible for the No. 39 car," Buckler said.J"We're going to spend the next week sorting out the car for Duncan and Grant so we can get them back on top where they belong. These guys are one of the strongest driver pairings in the field and they are both totally committed.
Driving the No. 40 Carlsen Porsche/CDI/Carrera Design entry for TRG was John Bibbo and Scott Schroeder. Bibbo drove a full stint at speed, drove well and turned the car over to Schroeder in excellent condition.JThrough a series of yellow flags and strategy calls, as well as some excellent driving by Schroeder, the No. 40 clawed its way to a 10th-place finish -- improving on their 15th-place last week at Mosport.
The final pairing for TRG was the No. 42 Carlsen Porsche of RJ Valentine and returning TRG driver John Peterson. Valentine and Peterson drove a great race in what was a true street fight from the back of the pack.JThe duo worked together to claw their way from 35th-position on the starting grid all the way to a 20th-place finish.
"John (Bibbo) and Scott were fabulous," remarked Buckler.J"It was a hard drive and a great finish for these guys. The No. 40 car has really gelled as a team and it shows. Scott was one of the fastest drivers out there for most of his stint. RJ and John (Peterson) drove a great race from near the back of the pack and finished without a single scratch on the car. These guys are real veterans when it comes to endurance driving and race craft. I was really proud of them for doing such a great job."
Mid-Ohio: Ian Baas race report
Mid-Ohio: Chip Ganassi Racing race report