Rolex 24 TRV Team Report

TRV Team Beats the Odds and the Obstacles And Finishes Eighth in the Top Class in the Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 31 - In a race that threw a little bit of everything at them, the TRV Motorsport crew persevered and finished eighth in...

TRV Team Beats the Odds and the Obstacles And Finishes Eighth in the Top Class in the Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 31 - In a race that threw a little bit of everything at them, the TRV Motorsport crew persevered and finished eighth in the Can-Am class and 21st overall in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

The list of challenges that the Toledo, Ohio-based team had to overcome is a long one, but through it all the crew members and drivers Tom Volk of Blissfield, Mich.; Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J.; Paul Debban of Malibu, Calif., and R.J. Valentine of Hingham, Mass., had fun. "And that," as team owner Volk reiterated sometime in the wee hours of the morning Sunday, "is the name of the game."

The team, which carries sponsorship from Supreme Exhaust System Products, Purity Farms and LCF Associates, debuted its Chevy Riley & Scott at this race. Not surprisingly there were some new-car bugs to work out, and the team was further handicapped by the absence of team manager Mike Madden, who suffered a heart attack in mid-December. He is doing well and crew chief John Neis and race engineer John Greene did a masterful job in leading the primarily all-volunteer group, but it was no easy task.

The first big clink in the master plan came before the race even began. On Friday night the crew installed a brand-new motor in the car, but after it was installed it wouldn't even turn over. After hours of attempts to identify and solve the problem, the team was ready to take that motor out and reinstall its practice motor when it ran out of time, the garage area closed, and the crew members were asked to leave.

The engine builder came up with a possible solution to the problem at his hotel later that night. When the team was reunited with the car Saturday morning, it got the motor running just in time for the half-hour warm-up session prior to the race. With Volk behind the wheel and with assistance from the MoTeC engine management system personnel, the car's electronic fuel injection mapping was completed and another bullet was dodged. But the crew now faced the 24-hour race without about 14 hours of rest that it sorely needed.

On Saturday at 1 p.m. Schroeder took the green in 18th place in the 78-car field. With some dazzling driving and pit strategy, the team was an incredible third in the early going. Over-exuberant drivers had Schroeder shaking his head in dismay, however, and he let some of them around him just so he could keep his eye on them. He said the numerous yellow flags in the early going were impossible to see in various spots on the course, and he was hit by a Spice, a Porsche and a Viper. The last blow bent a wheel, but he made it back to the pits and the crew came through once again. The close racing throughout the field made the event especially brutal this year.

The first real set-back during the race, however, came on an early tire change when a lug nut got stuck on the spindle. When the wheel was finally removed the threads on the hub were stripped, and the crew had to fix that right in the pits while Schroeder waited in the car.

That pushed the team down to the low thirties in position, which unfortunately started a trend. The drivers would bring the car back up through the field to close to where the car had qualified or above it, only to have something go wrong, fall back down to 30-something, and have to claw their way back up again.

A miscalculation on fuel left Volk stranded on the course at one point and he had to be towed in, but again the team persevered.

An oil line broke just after midnight. At that point the crew elected to take the car to the garage area to repair that problem, clean the oil and tire debris off the car, and do a complete brake job that they were going to need soon anyway, since the brakes were turning to mush. That caused a lot of excitement in the garage area, and when the car was refired the spectators who had been watching the action first-hand gave a big cheer and applauded for the team's quick work.

The trouble wasn't over, however. When the car got back on the track the engine didn't respond well to having been run without much oil, and at one point the car sat in the pits for awhile with a laptop computer attached to it to check its vital signs. Happily the verdict was the patient would live and the car returned to the fray, but again it was back in 30-something spot.

The team got back up into the twenties when dawn broke Sunday morning, but then it started to rain. Slicks came off and rain tires went on. Then it started to clear. Rain tires came off and slicks went back on. That happened a couple of times, and Debban, who isn't fond of racing in the rain anyway, spun twice in the fray but somehow kept it off the wall.

The clock kept ticking and the car somehow kept running, although it drank a great deal of Mobil 1 in addition to its fuel on pitstops.

Somehow the team beat all the odds and the laps kept running down. With only 38 minutes to go, Schroeder was behind the wheel when suddenly a large boom erupted from the rear of the car and a big plume of smoke poured out of it. The public-address system announcers speculated that the engine had expired, but instead the exhaust pipe had blown off, something that had actually happened to Schroeder once before in the event.

Once again the TRV crew was up to the task and the repairs were made. Team owner Volk replaced Schroeder with Valentine for the finish, and he took the checkered in North America's toughest sports car endurance race a half-hour later. It was a well-deserved accomplishment for Valentine, who took the checkered for the first time in his 13th attempt at completing this race.

The TRV team was one of only 44 of the 78 starters to finish. All the crews poured onto the track apron at the end to applaud each team as each car took the checkered, and the TRV Chevy Riley & Scott was among them.

"Every one of the drivers drove well, but because of the challenges leading up to the race, the stars of this race were the crew," Volk said. "It was a tribute to both the car and the crew to finish such a grueling event in the car's maiden race. With Daytona behind us, we can see the potential of the car and we look forward to Sebring in March."

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Series GT
Drivers Jeret Schroeder , R.J. Valentine