Third-Time Was Almost A Charm Petaluma, CA, December 19, 2007 -- When RJ Valentine and Andy Lally re-joined forces with TRG for 2007, they only had one goal: championship. Of course championships are never an easy feat, but with TRG winning ...
Third-Time Was Almost A Charm
Petaluma, CA, December 19, 2007 -- When RJ Valentine and Andy Lally re-joined forces with TRG for 2007, they only had one goal: championship. Of course championships are never an easy feat, but with TRG winning two straight team titles in 2005 and 2006, as well as the 2006 driver's championship, the duo knew it was certainly within their reach.
"2007 saw one of the most competitive fields we've ever seen in the Rolex GT series, but I knew with RJ's experience and Andy's race-craft we had a really good shot at some big results," quipped TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "We are again firmly committed to Porsche this year because I know they could provide us with the most competitive package over the season, and I knew I had two guys who could maximize this potential."
And maximize they did. In a series that featured: three different winning manufacturers, six different winning teams, and 15 different winning drivers, RJ and Andy's number 66 Porsche GT3 Cup 997 would go on to win five races, nearly double that of any other team. Yet despite winning over one-third of the season's races, finishing in the top-10 eleven times, and finishing in the top-five seven times, bad luck would intervene at the season finale and the team fell just short of the championship.
"I really wanted that Champion's watch this year, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be" stated the 63-year old Valentine. "Everyone at TRG put on a winning program and of course I had the best teammate in the world, but we just didn't have the luck we needed in the end."
Getting off to a rough start, the CRG/F1 Air sponsored number 66 encountered tough luck at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona being taken out by an errant Daytona Prototype and eventually finishing 17th. Searching for better results at the next event in Mexico City, the team never quite found the speed they needed and held a steady pace to finish eighth.
Moving on to the high banks of Miami-Homestead Speedway however, the fortunes of the team took a major turn for the better, as RJ and Andy finally found their pace and drove a hard-fought race with the number 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 to just barely miss the race win.J "Homestead was a major turning point for us. We finally found the set-up we liked and the strategy just worked perfect," stated Andy Lally, driving for his third Grand-American driver's championship.
With their fortunes turned, the momentum of RJ and Andy would translate in to an unbeatable mid-season pace. Starting out with a good use of strategy at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to take their first win, the team's understanding of pit tactics and car set-up would garner four more wins throughout the year, including wins at: The Sahlen's Six Hours at The Glen, The Mid-Ohio Sports-Car Course, Iowa Speedway, and the prestigious Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.
"After the first two races I wasn't sure how our season would unfold, but Andy is simply one of the best drivers in GT racing, and working with TRG's understanding of strategy, I was extremely impressed that we were still in hunt at the end of the season" stated the Boston-based Valentine.
Unfortunately before the first hour of the season-finale had even finished, a plume of smoke out of the number 66's engine would put a premature end to a very competitive season.
"I really wanted to get RJ the Champion's watch, but it seemed like things were just out of our hands," stated the Georgia-based Lally, who will continue to partner with RJ in select 2008 races. "Over 13 races RJ never put a foot wrong, which in this type of racing really makes him the ideal teammate."
Moving on to 2008, the duo will continue to run select races together, but scheduling conflicts will prevent the pairing from a complete season together.
For RJ, who also runs a consortium of businesses out of his Massachusetts office, business requirements will prevent him from running the full 13-race (or is it 12) ? calendar, leaving him instead to a partial schedule with both Andy as well as Sports-Car and Open Wheel standout Bryan Sellers.
For Andy, his participation in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with TRG Motorsports will keep him quite busy throughout the year, allowing him only to run a handful of races in the Grand-American series.
For RJ, 2008 brings about new opportunities to run with both Andy and Bryan. "2008 will be a very fun season for me. I'm really looking to get a lot of seat time in the car, and Bryan was really impressive with the team last year."
"I had the opportunity of working with TRG on a limited basis through out last season, and I am honored and excited to be invited back. RJ Valentine and Andy Lally made miracles happen last year and left big shoes to fill," exclaimed Bryan Sellers, who is quickly becoming one of TRG's team leaders. "RJ is a multiple race winner in Grand- Am competition and brings a lot of additional knowledge to an already experienced race team. I can not think of a better driver paring to be involved with, and I am looking forward to working with both of them. I would like to thank RJ Valentine, as well as Kevin and Debra Buckler for giving me the chance of a lifetime. I intend to make the best of it!"
For Kevin Buckler, the target is now set on a successful year ahead. "Moving on to 2008, we have a lot to look forward to for both RJ and Andy. We have big expectations on several fronts for the group, and the good thing is everyone on the team is working very hard to make it happen."