TRG enters Rolex 24 At Daytona as the most successful privateer team in North American.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 22, 2014) - TRG-AMR (Aston Martin Racing) enters the 52nd annual Rolex 24 At Daytona with its roots from TRG as the most successful privateer team in North American sports car racing over the last 15-plus years.
The organization built by Kevin Buckler and his wife, Debra, will field multiple cars in a variety of classes of the new IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. It will run multiple cars in the Pirelli World Challenge, will launch a one-make series, the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge of North America and will continue to service many customer racing programs.
"We're coming off a period of strong success and into a period the last couple of years where everyone is trying to find their way, and we come out the other side with a brand-new dance partner, the prettiest girl at the prom," Buckler said. "The two series have come together in a grand way and have a tremendous management team with a great schedule and TV package. Our brand is strong, and we have the Aston Martin Racing partnership to develop here in the North America. It's a magic moment in time, almost like we've been in planning for 20 years."
That planning started in the early 1990s when Buckler and his partner/soon-to-be wife opened a racing business from their home in Northern California, developing, testing and then shipping performance parts from their garage. But there's one key difference between then and now.
"There's a sense of a fresh new start but with a really strong history and a keen understanding of the sport," Buckler said. "It's fresh, it's new, but we're in a really different position than when we started this thing over 20 years ago. It's a good opportunity for Aston and the series, as well. For everybody involved here, it's a win-win."
And winning is something Buckler's organization knows better than almost anyone in its 19 consecutive years of Rolex 24 competition, a modern-day record for longevity. TRG has won the GT class four times since 2002 at Daytona, including a historic first overall victory in the endurance classic by a GT car in 2003. No team has more podium finishes during the last 15 years at Daytona, either.
This year TRG-AMR will field two cars, the No. 007 and No. 009 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s, in the GT Daytona class at the Rolex 24 on Saturday and Sunday Jan. 25-26. The team also will field multiple GT4 Vantage cars in the two-hour, 30-minute Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race Friday, Jan. 24 at Daytona.
It's an ambitious program, especially combined with all of TRG-AMR's other racing and customer activities. But Buckler wouldn't have it any other way. Racing is an enterprise of survival of the fittest at all levels, and Buckler thinks the sweat equity of reinvention with Aston Martin keeps the team strong and poised for future success and growth.
"We're always trying to stay ahead of the curve," Buckler said. "That's been one of my main things as CEO of the company for years. My job is to see forward and devise strategy. We have a great team, and they fill in the blanks. This is a great opportunity for the future for everyone involved."
Buckler's passion for the Rolex 24 ignited when he and a few buddies traveled in 1994 to Daytona Beach to watch the race and have a good time at places such as the iconic watering hole the Ocean Deck. Buckler already was an avid club racer and had dreams of becoming a professional driver and team owner. He and his friends were at the track, watching the race over a few beers around 2 a.m.
"I said, 'Guys, I am serious. Some day, some day, I want to drive at this race,'" Buckler said. "They're like: 'Yeah, whatever. Have another beer.' It's funny - be careful what you wish for! I never uttered the word win or be one the most successful teams ... nothing. I just wanted to drive."
That dream became reality when Buckler first drove at Daytona two years later, in 1996. And his program has flourished since then, infused with a particular passion for this special race.
"I've always taken this race as a personal challenge because it's like saying you're really good at an ultra-marathon, and all your friends that you race against think you're a freak for saying that," Buckler said. "To say it's enjoyable is not the right word. It's such a challenge for every part of our organization. It's nuts! But I feel like we have one of the strongest teams we have had in a really long time, if not forever. I am really proud of our entire squad right now.
"Knowing what a big challenge it is and knowing that it's more complex than anything we do, we just embrace that. And we have found ways to improve each and every year. Our programs run smooth and they run well, and we pride ourselves on delivering."
That won't change this weekend, even as Buckler's team enters an exciting new era at the biggest sports car race in North America as TRG-AMR.