No. 65 TRG/Riegel Autosport Team Scores Top-10 at Watkins Glen Five-Car Effort From TRG Produces Mixed Bag of Results in Six-Hour Race No. 65 Porsche WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - The No. 65 Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Total R Solutions Porsche GT3...
No. 65 TRG/Riegel Autosport Team Scores Top-10 at Watkins Glen
Five-Car Effort From TRG Produces Mixed Bag of Results in Six-Hour Race
No. 65 Porsche WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - The No. 65 Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Total R Solutions Porsche GT3 from TRG/Riegel Autosport scored a top-10 finish to lead the way among a five-car entry from TRG in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.
Co-drivers Craig Stanton, Hima Maher and series newcomer Josemanuel Gutierrez brought the No. 65 machine home in ninth place, three laps behind the race-winning No. 69 Mazda. While Stanton - the 2005 Rolex Series GT champion - is no stranger to endurance races, it was Maher's first six-hour event and was Gutierrez's first-ever Rolex Series start, making the No. 65 team's performance all the more impressive.
"It was a hard day," said TRG owner Kevin Buckler following the race. "We had five Porsches and our 65 car led the charge. It was a great job for Riegel Autosport and TRG, and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing. I mean these guys practiced really hard. They were definitely an underdog, but they showed what good teamwork can do. I'm super proud of them. They were our shining star this weekend."
"This was my first Grand-Am race," Gutierrez added. "I was very excited. I was a little bit anxious, but finally everything came together. We did practice a lot of in-and-outs with the car, to the point where my friends were a little worried that I was asking them to practice too much. Everything was flawless, in and out of the car, the pit stops, the racing, and no mistakes. Craig Stanton and Hima Maher are just fantastic guys, very fast, very quick. They don't make mistakes. Fortunately, I didn't make any mistakes either."
It was Stanton's sixth Rolex Series start of the season, but he has enjoyed his best results of the year since joining TRG prior to Round 5 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month. Saturday's race produced his second top-10 result in three starts.
"The TRG powerhouse did a great job today," Stanton said. "I mean, the amount of people and the staffing that Kevin puts together is pretty brilliant. This is the third race I've had with Hima and (car owner) Ted (Rozsa), and it's great to be here. A couple of cars had a tough go, but we just thundered on. It was Hima Maher's first six-hour and was Josemanuel's first pro race, so we super exceeded our goals in all aspects. We were in the top 10, which was a lofty goal, originally, and it worked out perfectly."
While the No. 65 team celebrated a hard-earned result, however, the rest of the TRG team was left somewhat disappointed with the outcome in the Six Hours of The Glen.
"I was pretty disappointed in our Pirelli tires and the way the rules are completely out of balance this season," Bucker said. "We're out here, we're a top team, we've got top drivers, and watching these guys drive around us like we're standing still with our unibody 'Prep 1' cars is really, really frustrating. We need the series to address the gross imbalance in the roles clearly favoring the Mazdas and the Pontiacs and to make all the cars competitive with each other. Otherwise, their car counts will continue to decline into the danger zone. That is really not good considering how very hard we have tried to support and bolster the series."
The team's best hope for a victory fell by the wayside with nearly one hour to go in the race with a lengthy stay on pit road for the No. 66 Marquis Jet/Mitchell Rubber/Resorts International/IPC/Total Lubricants Porsche GT3. Richard Westbrook brought the car into the pits at the tail end of the lead lap in fifth place, but began encountering throttle problems as he came into the pits.
Westbrook gave way to co-driver Bryce Miller, but the No. 66 machine fell out of contention as the crew was forced to locate an errant bolt that was responsible for holding the throttle wide open. The crew worked quickly to rectify the problem, but Miller ended up taking the checkered flag four laps behind the race winners in 11th place. However, the result did enable Miller and full-time co-driver Ted Ballou to move into seventh place in the GT class standings.
"We had a great car," Ballou said. "The car was solid. We certainly were the fastest Porsche by a long shot. I thought we were going to be right there at the end. It was really shaping up to go that way, but we got a bolt under the throttle. You can't guard against that. It's just some really bad luck, but we'll take our points and move on."
"The guys have just been breaking their backs getting this car set up for us," Miller said. "It's just an awesome car. As far as what we have to work with, and the regulations that have been handed down by Grand-Am, it's really incredible what these guys have been able to do and what they've delivered to us. We'll just keep working at what we've got right now. We've got good momentum. We've for sure made good improvements, and all you can do is look forward to the next event from here and hope that things sort themselves out."
Bryan Sellers, RJ Valentine and special guest star Randy Pobst combined to finish 13th in the No. 68 CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA Group/F1 Air Porsche GT3. Like the other Porsche runners in the field, the No. 68 trio was also plagued by tire issues throughout the entire weekend. Unscheduled pit stops also contributed to the team's result.
"It was probably as tough as the invasion of Normandy in '44," Valentine said. "We were against all odds. We had problems with the tire situation here. We're hoping that Pirelli is going to rise to the occasion and Grand-Am is going to give us some concessions. We're obviously not competitive here with the general run of the field. Let's hope that reason prevails, that we go forward into the future with renewed vigor, that we provide for those who need."
The No. 64 SRS/Globus/Adopt A Pig Porsche GT3 from TRG/J Lowe Racing came home 17th in class. Co-drivers Jim Lowe, Tim Sugden and Jim Pace battled throughout and did manage to see the checkered flag, albeit 19 laps behind the class winners.
"Six hours is a long day," said Pace. "We went a lap down pretty early, had a little contact, cut a tire down, cut another tire down, had some bodywork rubbing and lost another tire. It was a big day for left rear tires. Other than that, it's always fun running with Jim Lowe and the TRG guys. It just wasn't our day."
Even before the green flag dropped on the race, Tim George Jr. - who was second in the GT point standings along with co-driver Spencer Pumpelly coming into the race - reported over his radio that the brakes were not working on his No. 67 Monster Cable/944 Magazine/WIN Institute/Gleukos Porsche GT3. Sure enough, entering the famed Watkins Glen "inner loop" chicane on the opening lap, the brake pedal went straight to the floor for George. Although he tried to avoid his fellow competitors, he made contact with Joe Foster in the No. 40 Mazda, sending both cars behind the wall for lengthy repairs.
Some three hours and 40 minutes after the green flag dropped to start the race, the No. 67 machine returned from behind the wall with Spencer Pumpelly behind the wheel. At that point, Pumpelly and George were simply forced to complete the required 30 minutes per driver to earn championship points. Both drivers managed to do just that before the car finally gave up the ghost in 24th place. The result dropped Pumpelly and George to third in the championship standings.
"The race started out with a brake failure, which led to a pretty significant crash," Pumpelly said. "Granted, that was some pretty bad luck to start with, but the guys got the thing back rolling. Not only rolling, but actually feeling pretty good in enough time for Tim and I to get out there and do the laps we needed to do to get some points. I think the guys proved their worth today. I think championships are won on days like these when you've got to turn a disaster into something, and not the days where everything's just going your way. We got through one. It could have worked out better, but we'll have to lick our wounds and be happy we got what we got."