TRG GTO.Rs -- A Championship Season Won Drivers, Team and Manufacturer Titles Petaluma, California -- TRG's 2006 Grand American Rolex Series GT season had the team winning every title up for grabs. The 13 race GT schedule had the team locked in...
TRG GTO.Rs -- A Championship Season
Won Drivers, Team and Manufacturer Titles
Petaluma, California -- TRG's 2006 Grand American Rolex Series GT season had the team winning every title up for grabs. The 13 race GT schedule had the team locked in a battle for the drivers championship that came down to the last race. The team title is the second in consecutive years for the team and the GT manufacturers title is the first for Pontiac in the Rolex series. TRG also carries into 2007 a remarkable 23 podium finishes in a rowextending back to mid-season of last year.
Marc Bunting and Andy Lally took the drivers honors in GT behind the wheel of their number 65/TRG/GTO/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/GTO.R. The two, third year teammates, were able to win the championship by 11 points over their closest pursuers. On their way to top honors in the series Bunting and Lally amassed five wins and graced the podium a total of 10 times on the season.
Teammates Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins in the number 64/iRise/TRG/Pontiac GTO.R finished out the season in third place in the points. The California duo was able to win three races and stand on the podium a total of nine times. Collins finishes the season first in the GT series laps led category with 100, which also placed him eighth overall in laps led amongst Daytona Prototype and GT competitors.
Kevin Buckler, TRG team owner: "What an incredible year. When we struck our deal with GM Racing and Pontiac Motorsports in early 2005 we knew that the ultimate goal was to bring home the triple crown, all three championships, if possible and provide Pontiac with the manufacturers title. Well, we really did it. The competition was fierce and we knew that going in. The amount of planning and preparation required to run the program at this level was intense. I am so proud of every single member of our team. Marc and Andy did everything that it took to perform, behind the wheel, on the track and in between races to win the championships. Andy's professionalism and driving talent really came to the surface this year. Marc Bunting really picked-up his game behind the wheel, keeping pace and out qualifying some the best full-time road racers in the world. RJ Valentine drove with us in several races including our second place finish at Daytona and was a fantastic partner all year. Paul and Kelly were so strong and we all thought they would be the Daytona winners. At times they could not be touched, we had some niggling problems with the car that contributed to a tough season for them. They always drove extremely well and represented the team and GM as professionals. The entire TRG team did not forget how we lost in 2005 and that feeling stayed with us all season. That only added to our collective motivation. With our performance this year and last, we have established ourselves as one of the top operations in all of professional sports car racing."
Andy Lally, #65/TRG/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/iRise/Pontiac GTO.R: ""Marc and I had a very strong year with TRG and we are proud of the job they helped us accomplish for Pontiac. It was a thrill to drive the GTO.R this year and an honor to be a part of a Championship winning team. There were some great moments this year, from our come back at VIRfor our first win of the seasontobeing able to win Lime Rock the way that we did and having my family there to see it all. It really was a wonderful racing season and a true team effort by everyone involved. Another key to our season was the help from RJ Valentine. In addition Kevin and the TRG crew were able to carry over the motivation from last year's tough ending to 2006 and take the championship."
Marc Bunting, #65/TRG/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/iRise/Pontiac GTO.R: "Coming away with five victories is a high point. We were on the podium every race except two. Andy and I came into the season as under-dogs to the 72 car as well as our team car. We had an uphill battle the whole way, coming out with a championship was beyond my expectation. That makes winning it all that much sweeter. Andy and I did what we have done in the past fast, consistent and make no mistakes. On a personal note my qualifying efforts on the season was a definite strong point for myself. I was able to improve my driving from last year, especially in qualifying. The Mid-Ohio race was a high point, qualifying high on the time sheet and running competitively with the top guys in GT racing from around the world. I don't do this as a full time job, but come Sunday I was able to compete with them is a great feeling. To win the championship with Kevin and TRG guys after the crazy ending in 2005 was real special."
Paul Edwards, #64/TRG/iRise/Pontiac GTO.R: "One of the high points for us was the sixth hour at Daytona when we were two laps ahead and leading the championship. This is how we all thought that the year was going to go, I turned the car over to Kelly and the upright broke -- dropped us back to like 14th - which really depicts how the rest of our season went. We got a couple wins at Mexico City and Homestead, it seemed like we were back on track. We had a strong bullet proof car, that the 65 guys showed all year, we just had a bunch of small things that interrupted our season. The race at Homestead was a great race for me, I was a few seconds behind the Mazda and was able to catch him at the checker flag for the win. With six laps to go at Barber, we were running a few positions back and I was to take the lead with a lap to go and win. We book-ended the season with races that depicted how our year went, tough finish at Daytona and a tough start at Miller which led to a disappointing result."
Kelly Collins, #64/TRG/iRise/Pontiac GTO.R: "It was a bitter sweet year for me. I am happy to be back with GM, but I really expected more from Paul and I - a championship. With all of the ups-and-downs, frankly we were very lucky to be third in the championship. I am proud of the way TRG, GM and the team went at the year, we just had some really crazy stuff happen to us over the season. Daytona was a real disappointment, we were leading handily and had our problems. Really every race that we didn't win was a disappointment. We either stepped on our foot as a team or we had a mechanical issue with the car. Congratulations to Andy and Marc, they did what they had to do to win the championship and they deserve it."
24 Hours at Daytona, Qualify 65-5, 64-4; Finish 65-2, 64-13
The series Super Bowl, the 24 Hours at Daytona was the much anticipated first real endurance run for the Pontiac GTO.R. The preparation of the TRG crew would be the key to success. The number 64 car and their star studded driver lineup of Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards, Andy Pilgrim and Jan Magnussen were able qualify fourth. The number 65 car piloted by Marc Bunting, Andy Lally, RJ Valentine and Johnny O'Connell posted a fifth place qualifying effort. The race was playing out in the favor of the GTO.R with the number 65 car leading by 5:00 p.m. on lap 140 with their teammates in the number 64 car following closely. In the ensuing pit stops, the 64 car was able to take over the lead. Three hours after Kelly Collins took the lead, he had a spin due a suspension issue that started in the braking zone of turn one and ended in the grass just short of the tire wall. This rear suspension issue caused the team to make repairs in the garage and going some 20 laps down. The race became a points race for the 64 crew with the look to a season ending championship. When the 64 fell back the 65 drivers took up the fight at the front. On the strength of strong performances by Andy Lally and Johnny O'Connell and with excellent support from Marc Bunting and RJ Valentine, the team was locked in a battle with the winning Porsche right up to the end of the race. Twenty-four hours was just not enough time to run down the eventual winners.
Mexico City Qualify 65-5, 64-1; Finish 65-3, 64-1
The second round of the series took the GTO.Rs to Mexico City. At the drop of the green flag, Kelly Collins, starting from pole position fell back to fourth place. The Californian was able to fight his way back to second before the first caution. On lap 46, the first full course yellow of the race flew, the TRG crew made a great strategy call to bring the two GTO.Rs in late into the pace car period. When the two cars pitted, Paul Edwards was able to leave the pits in first place. Edwards drove smart, consistent laps nursing a car that was going away to defend his win from last year. The pit stop did not go as well for the number 65/TRG/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/GTO.R. Trouble getting Andy Lally buckled in during the driver change cost the pair second place and they eventually had to fight back to take the last step on the podium. Marc Bunting put in an excellent drive to start the race, running consistent lap times to turn the car over to Lally in second. Lally rejoined the race in sixth and was able to drive the GTO.R back up to third place.
Homestead Miami Speedway, Qualify 65-14, 64-5; Finish 65-9, 64-1
Homestead hosted the third round of the Rolex GT series. Kelly Collins started the 64 GTO.R from his fifth place qualifying position where he was able to make up ground from a disappointing qualifying effort. Collins turned the car over to co-driver Paul Edwards on lap 39. Edwards was able to make his way through traffic into second position by lap 71. At the end the young Californian was as much as five seconds behind the leading 70 car. With just three laps to go, Edwards was able to negotiate traffic better than the leader and pass for the lead, making a near photo finish at the checker. In the 65 car, RJ Valentine started from his seventh row qualifying position to run consistent lap times around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn modified oval course. Valentine turned over to Marc Bunting who kept the momentum of team going before handing over to Andy Lally who brought the car home in ninth.
Virginia International Raceway, Qualify 65-2, 64-11; Finish 65-1, 64-2;
At Virginia International Raceway the weekend started off strong with Andy Lally finishing second in the qualifying race under wet conditions. Teammate Paul Edwards in the 64 car came home in 12th. Marc Bunting went away from the front row under darkening skies, with teammate Edwards starting from the sixth row of the grid. The threatening weather had the TRG crew ready for every eventuality. At the checker Andy Lally delivered the victory, followed closely by teammate Kelly Collins for second, a TRG 1-2, what would be third on the weekend.
Laguna Seca, Qualify 65-2, 64-1; Finish 65-2, 64-4
Kelly Collins set the mood for the TRG weekend by winning the qualifying race at Laguna Seca with their point leading teammates of Lally and Bunting shadowing the 64 car to a second place finish, setting the raced grid as an all TRG Pontiac GTO.R front row. Lally and Bunting drove in tight confines, through and around the Daytona Prototype traffic to come home in second. Collins and Edwards topped a competitive weekend with a fourth place finish.
Phoenix International Raceway, Qualify 65-2, 64-5; Finish 65-2, 64-1
Phoenix International Raceway was the site of the last qualifying race of the season. Andy Lally utilized the event to again score maximum points as the qualifying races paid as many points as the actual main event. Lally drove to a second place finish in the q-race with teammate Kelly Collins finishing fifth. Lined up for the race, Marc Bunting started the number 64 from the front row and drove through the typical Phoenix carneage to turn over the car to Lally in the top five. Lally set our to survive and run good clean laps around the short modified oval circuit to take the checker in second. In the 64 TRG car, Kelly Collins managed to make-up for his qualifying race effort and lead up to lap 83. Turning over to Edwards the duo were shuffled back in the order through pit stops and yellows, but the young Californian was able to come back to take the victory, another 1-2 finish for TRG.
Lime Rock Park, Qualify 65-3, 64-3; Finish 65-1, 64-2
Bunting started the number 65/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/TRG/Pontiac GTO.R from the teams third place qualifying position. On the first caution period the team's strategy had Lally take over for the remainder of the race which proved the key to victory on the day. Teammates Collins and Edwards came home in a close second to complete a dominating weekend for TRG on the holiday weekend in Connecticut.
Watkins Glen Six-Hour, Qualify 65-1, 64-3; Finish 65-4, 64-3
Watkins Glen offered up a mixed-bag of weather for the traditional six-hour date. The TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs came through the drama unscathed with Edwards and Collins finishing on the last step of the podium in third. The California duo kept up with the leading Porsches on the weekend but never really crack the top positions in the race. Teammates Bunting and Lally braved the conditions and came away from the weekend just missing the podium in fourth position.
Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course, Qualify 65-4 , 64-5; Finish 65-3, 64-2
Mid-Ohio witnessed another round of restrictions on the TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs. Despite additional performance set backs, the duo of Collins and Edwards managed to finish second. Burnitng and Lally continued on their drive to the championship by coming from their fourth place qualifying position to complete the day in third place.
Daytona International Speedway, Qualify 65-1, 64-3; Finish 65-1, 64-16
Celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Pontiac GTO.Rs racing debut, Lally and Bunting won at the World Center of Speed. The TRG crew made a strategic call to do just one pit-stop, this became the secret to victory on this night for the points leading duo. Collins and Edwards did not fare as well in the number 64/iRise/TRG/Pontiac GTO.R. Mechanical issues sidelined the two and what would have been a top finish relegated them to a disappointing 16th on the evening.
Barber Motorsport Park, Qualify 65-3, 64-2; Finish 65-1, 64-3
Bunting and Lally added win number four on the season at Barber Motorsport Park. Bunting started the number 65 TRG GTO.R from his second row qualifying position and negotiated two full course cautions before handing over to Lally on lap 22. Cycling through pit stops and caution periods, Lally was able to bring the 65 car back from as far back as 12th to the take the victory. Kelly Collins went away from the grid at Barber from the front row, second place qualifying position. Holding second place for most of the race, the duo of Collins Edwards eventually came home in third, adding to their podium count on the season now at nine.
Infineon Raceway, Qualify 65-6, 64-2; Finish 65-2, 64-6
Marc Bunting started the number 65/TRG/GTO/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/Pontiac GTO.R from his eighth place qualifying effort. The Maryland resident was able to run fast consistent laps and move up to seventh place before handing over to co-driver Andy Lally on lap 24. Lally took the 65 GTO.R back to the fight in ninth and was able to negotiate the traffic and DP cars to eventually lead in the last third of the event. A late race pit stop for a splash of fuel put the duo back to second. Bunting and Lally still lead the championship going into the last race, just seven days away. Kelly Collins started his number 64/iRise/TRG/Pontiac GTO.R from the front row. The Californian maintained the second position right up to the driver change on lap 24. Handing over to fellow California resident Paul Edwards, he returned to the race in fourth. On lap 43 after shuffling through pit stops Edwards assumed the GT lead. Edwards was swapping the lead with the number 72 car throughout his stint. On lap 76 Edwards pitted and the team had a misstep with the left rear wheel lug nuts and he had to return to the pits to secure the wheel dropping the 64 team back to sixth.
Miller Motorsport Park, Qualify 65-2 , 64-3; Finish 65-1 , 64-8J
Andy Lally started the number 65/TRG/F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/Pontiac GTO.R and drove consistently throughout his nearly three-hour stint to run strong in the top five. Lally had intermittent steering issues throughout his time that were cured when the TRG crew made quick work of a hose change and topped the fluid off in the GTO.R. Marc Bunting took over from Lally on lap 59 and proceeded to run in third place. Bunting turned over to newcomer Spencer Pumpelly who proceeded to further improve the cars position to run in second during his stint. The race win and championship were sealed when the 72 car had an extended pit stop for brake repairs, putting the TRG number 65 car up a lap. A solid drive by Lally, Bunting and Pumpelly along with excellent pit strategy and car preparation by the TRG crew secured the win and the three championships for the team. The race was not so smooth for teammates Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Kris Wilson in the number 64/iRise/TRG/Pontiac GTO.R. As Edwards pulled away from the garage for the parade lap he noticed an issue with the power steering. He returned the GTO.R to the garage and the TRG crew made quick work of a steering rack change. Edwards joined the race some nine laps down for an eventual eighth place finish on the day. The duo of Collins and Edwards finished the season with three wins and six other podium finishes.