Three TRG Porsches Take Top-Four Spots in Two-Day Tire Test at Daytona Daytona Beach, Fla., November 16, 2007 -- TRG got off to an outstanding start in its quest for a third Rolex 24 At Daytona GT class victory, with three of the team's six cars...
Three TRG Porsches Take Top-Four Spots in Two-Day Tire Test at Daytona
Daytona Beach, Fla., November 16, 2007 -- TRG got off to an outstanding start in its quest for a third Rolex 24 At Daytona GT class victory, with three of the team's six cars posting top-four unofficial times in the GT class during a two-day test session on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Daytona session, which was the first of two Grand-Am-sanctioned tests ahead of the season-opening Rolex 24 on January 26-27, 2008, was designed to allow teams to get more acquainted with the new Pirelli tires that will be used exclusively in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series beginning next season.
"What a great test," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "We learned a lot about the tires, and I'm very impressed with the Pirellis and that's why we came down here. Everybody really performed well. I mean, all six cars, the guys drove really well. We had one car have a little mechanical. The other five crossed the start/finish under their own power. Three of the top four positions are ours, which is just great. Everybody drove pretty hard."
Leading the way for TRG was team newcomer Bryce Miller in the No. 66 who posted an unofficial best lap at 1:51.418. Miller has moved to TRG after finishing third in the Rolex Series GT point standings with another team in 2007. He will co-drive the No. 66 for the full season with Ted Ballou, who has moved up to the Rolex Series GT class after contesting the KONI Challenge Series with TRG in 2007.
"The car is so easy to drive," Miller said. "These guys have dialed it in really quickly. Even just yesterday, we were getting down into some pretty competitive times, and over the course of the tire life, the car really seemed to sustain itself. We were really pleased with the consistency. Just the whole experience has been really great. The team has been really welcoming. It's just been very easy and very seamless. It's great."
"I'm really fortunate that I got hooked up with TRG a couple years ago, being fairly new to the sport," Ballou added. "TRG's just got a terrific reputation in the sport. For me to come in and be in the (No.) 66 car with Bryce this year is really a dream come true for me. To have the spirit of the team behind us and the legacy that they bring to this sport is really a great position to be sitting in. It puts the pressure on Bryce and I to perform well. I'm really looking forward to it this year."
Ballou and Miller will be joined for the Rolex 24 by three-time Rolex Series class champion and 2001 Rolex 24 SRPII class winner Andy Lally, who participated in the first day-and-a-half of testing at Daytona before heading for Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lally will compete in his third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event for TRG this weekend. Buckler, who co-drove to a GT victory in the 2002 Rolex 24 and an overall victory in 2003, also ran a few laps in the No. 66 machine late on Thursday.
"To take a brand-new car like we just did in the last 24 hours, never have it run on track, and to dial it in this quickly is a testament to TRG and Porsche," Lally said. "The quality of build that they're able to do with these cars and the setup that TRG is able to do is tremendous. We took a brand-new '08 car out of the box and ran competitive times and at the front with it right away. I'm real happy with the whole situation."
Just a few ticks behind Miller's best lap was Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 67 Porsche at 1:51.655. Pumpelly is also signed for the full 2008 season with TRG and will co-drive the No. 67 with Tim George Jr. for the full season. Pumpelly is also slated to drive the full KONI Challenge Series season with TRG and co-driver Duncan Ende. Bryan Sellers also drove the No. 67 during the test and is expected to join George and Pumpelly in the Rolex 24.
"It was a great test, Pumpelly said. "Obviously, TRG is one of the top teams here, so I'm not surprised that we're near the front of the sheet, but I am surprised at how good these tires are. We like the grip, we like the balance, and they seem to last a good amount of time. They're a lot of fun to drive on."
"I feel very honored to be a part of TRG, both as a driver and as an employee," George contributed. "I've actually moved to just north of San Francisco and I'm working for TRG in marketing. I'll be helping them with their NASCAR program, as well. I'm looking forward to the future and doing a lot with TRG and driving one of the trucks eventually. As far as TRG in the Rolex Series, they have been very successful, and I'm looking forward to bringing more watches back to the team after the 24."
Just behind Pumpelly on the unofficial time sheet with a best lap of 1:51.734 was 1996 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Jim Pace. Pace was joined in the No. 64 Porsche by his co-drivers for the race, Jim Lowe and Johannes van Overbeek.
"This is my third season, and this will be my third Rolex," commented Lowe. "We went pretty steep on the learning curve, which TRG helped us do. We went from finishing 19th my first year to finishing third and on the podium last year. Clearly, the concept of working with a team like TRG lets you do things like that and lets you make progressions like that. That's the whole issue of being around here with Kevin Buckler and his crew. They know how to really get you on a steep slope."
Co-driving the No. 63 TRG Porsche at the test were Ron Yarab, Pierre Borque and Lowe, while veteran racer RJ Valentine was joined in the No. 65 Porsche by Duncan Ende, Claudio Burtin and Hima Maher. Completing the six-car lineup were Russ Oasis, Tom Atherton, Jason Daskalos and James Stout in the No. 68.
Buckler noted that the team plans to field at least six cars, and possibly a seventh, in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He also indicated that the team had secured its driver lineup for every car in late October.
"We have a good shot at a win in most of the cars, and we've really been working on this," Buckler said. "I'm really proud of the fact that the team has worked for years to have people want to be with TRG. We have sponsors, drivers and crew locked and loaded. That's just a testament to everybody back home and the hard work of my wonderful wife, Debra, who just busts her tail back home when I'm gone most of the time."
The team will be back on the testing trail for one more Grand-Am-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway on January 4-6, 2008 before the season gets underway with the Rolex 24.