The Racer's Group final qualifying report

TRG debuted its stunning blue Porsche 911 GT3 RSR today at the initial practice sessions for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the team relieved the tension of long days awaiting the drop of the green flag. The team spent seven days in Germany...

TRG debuted its stunning blue Porsche 911 GT3 RSR today at the initial practice sessions for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the team relieved the tension of long days awaiting the drop of the green flag. The team spent seven days in Germany preparing the car for the brutal week of driving at Le Mans, and spent another five days ironing out final details at the circuit before Wednesday's initial qualifying and practice sessions.

Drivers Lars Nielsen, Gregor Fisken and Ian Donaldson promptly got down to business on Wednesday, shaking down the car and preparing themselves mentally for the upcoming marathon race. TRG employed a time-tested tactic of setting up a racecar for the long, hard 24 hour race -- we built the car "like a tank", as team owner Kevin Buckler put it.

"There are so many strategies to employ in relation to Le Mans," he said. "First among them the presentation of the team must be second to none. We've been flat out for eight weeks looking at every minute detail of our package from pit setup, driver and crew suits, car preparation, logistical planning-- the list goes on and on. Second, the preparation of the car must be absolutely perfect. We're on the biggest sports car stage in the world, in front of an audience of millions, and we just have to make sure the car and team is capable of finishing this race. Third is the crew -- they've got to be ready. They have to prepare themselves mentally and physically just like the drivers, because it's a real marathon for them as well. Fourth is, of course the drivers. They have to be ready in every possible way. I've got to say that I'm really proud to be with these three guys -- they're awesome. They've been waiting for this day for their entire lives -- driving Le Mans for them is a dream come true, and it's our job to make sure that it happens.

Lars Nielsen was enthusiastic and soaking in the experience of Le Mans. "Since the pre-test in April, I've been thinking about nothing but this race, and when I got here, it felt amazing. In Wednesday practice, I scrubbed eight seconds off of my fastest time in six laps -- the team is so good at getting the setup perfect -- it's very confidence inspiring. Everyone's advice to me coming here was to not get caught up in the stress and pressure of the place, but I think it would be a shame to stay away from that. I have a great deal of respect for this place, and to be respectful and to be fearful of a place are very different. In particular, the track itself-- I said it in pre-testing and I'll say it again, it's obvious it was designed by a genius. I drive through corners here that I have not seen the likes of anywhere in my racing career. I'm trying to stay calm and enjoy myself -- driving with one of the best Porsche teams in the world and having fantastic and personable co-drivers-- what more could I ask for?"

Ian Donaldson, who elected to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year instead of running the 24 Hours of Nurburgring for the tenth time, felt confident as the race neared. "I feel great. Lars, Gregor and I have a great time window, and as a trio, I feel we're very strongly positioned for the race. The car has a very nice long-distance feel to it, and it's going nicely on the tires. Our confidence is coming forward, and as it does, the daunting prospect of doing 24 hours here is becoming less daunting. I don't think it'll be an easy race, but it certainly won't be something we can't cope with. Every team will have some issues during event due to the overall speed, and the pressure on everybody from driver to team to the car and the management will be intense. I'd say we're quite up to the task, however."

Gregor Fisken utilized the night driving sessions to prepare himself for extended driving through the night in the race. "The closing speeds are enormous among the cars here, " he said, "and the darkness takes some getting used to. It's a big adjustment to work out how to compromise your racing line to a faster car -- both Lars and I had a problem by going offline to let prototypes through -- we won't let that happen again! It's a matter of being assertive and committed to your line."

He continued, "I'm amazed at how calm and composed the entire team is -- there's an amazing lack of drama and chaos about this team, and everyone seems to know exactly what they're doing. There's always a plan and there's no unnecessary rushing about. Every member of the team is 100%. The team has given us a tremendous race car, and they're building our confidence all the time."

The 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans runs on June 12-13 this year, and will be broadcast live for 21on Speed Channel in the US.


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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Kevin Buckler , Gregor Fisken , Ian Donaldson , Lars Erik Nielsen