TRG Wins Grueling Rolex 24 Hour GT class
TRG's Steve Bertheau, Brendan Gaughan, Spencer Pumpelly, Wolf Henzler and Andy Lally drove the No. 67 TRG/Sargent & Lundy/South Point Hotel & Casino/Porsche to the GT class victory in the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona.
- TRG team owner Kevin Buckler adds win number four, two as a driver (once overall) and two as an owner
- Andy Lally adds Rolex 24 Hour win number three
- Spencer Pumpelly and Wolf Henzler now each have two Rolex 24 hour wins
- Team ran more than 16-hours without a clutch
- Three TRG Rolex cars led laps, 67,66 and 54
The team started the week posting the fastest times in both of the free practice sessions on Thursday. That speed carried over to qualifying when Andy Lally put the No. 67 on the GT pole for the race. In post qualifying inspection the Grand-Am officials deemed the car out of spec, the rear wing was located one millimeter too far to the rear, requiring the 67 guys to start at the back of the grid in 44th. Dominik Farnbacher, in the TRG No. 66, assumed the pole position as the result of the infraction.
Andy Lally took the start of the twice-around-the-clock race, but used the first yellow for the team's first driver change, strategy for the team starting even before the 721 lap race, 2,566.76-mile race began. Throughout the days and night the team overcame obstacles on their way to victory lane. The most significant was a clutch problem that occurred with more than 16-hours to go in the event. Kevin Buckler decided against taking the car to the paddock and repairing the clutch, which would have cost a minimum of 20-laps and to tough it out. The choice was made to run it until it breaks or until the end. The car had to be carefully pushed by the crew, so the drivers could drop it into first and to leave the pits. The drivers also had to adjust their driving styles because the slightest mistake, a spin, contact resulting in stalling the engine would have required a tow back to the pits, again ruining the team's chances at victory. The drivers didn't put a wheel wrong, running conservative yet aggressive laps as they overcame the small issues like bad luck with caution flags.
"I am in total shock," Bertheau said. "I can't believe that I am sitting here with a shiny new Rolex Daytona watch on my arm from winning the 24 Hour. I have been saying how great this team is to everyone. I can't really put words to it. The race is a huge roller coaster from practice, to qualifying and going to the back from the pole and then doing my first stint on this huge stage, what a day. It really boggles my mind. Getting on the track and going right to work and watching my teammates drive was great. The crew performed flawlessly. We had some problems and issues and no one hung their head, they just went to work to fix it."
"What a start to the 2011 season," Gaughan said. I moved to the Germain truck team to have the chance to win races. I came to Daytona and won. I was able to hold my son in victory lane at Daytona! I've had tears in my eyes since the checkered flag. The last time I won was 2003 in Texas. I forgot what it felt like. I have to give a huge thanks to Steve Bertheau. He is the one who got this deal going. It is his car. Andy, Wolf and Spencer did the heavy lifting. What a great organization to be involved with. I am retiring from sports car racing. I have an average finish of 1.5. I finished second in Montreal with TRG and won at Daytona with them. I have a brand new Rolex watch from the Rolex 24 - I have to quit while I am ahead."
"This is amazing," Lally said. "Any time you win the biggest endurance race in the world it is great. It hasn't sunk in yet. The last two hours of driving around we had a lead, but we were worried about mechanical issues. I am at a loss for words. I am still trying to comprehend the job everyone did. To win this thing three times is great. It is a pleasure and honor to be a part of TRG. I think we did more than half of the race without the clutch. When we decided to do it, the decision really changed the game for us. That meant no stopping of that car out on the track. That would have meant being towed back to the paddock on a hook and ruining our race. The car was awesome. The gearbox that these guys built lasted and is a testament to the team. It is also a testament to my teammates, to make it last for over half the race."
"We had a lot of issues during the race," Pumpelly said. "It was far from a clean run. The crew did a great job to overcome some brake problems and a lot of little things that ruin lesser team's races. When the gearbox problem came up it really changed our approach. That is one of the worst things that can happen to a race car. It was a grind, a wrestling match with the car from then on. It was also a delicate operation. No one really got rattled, we just got into the rhythm of the car and raced - and won."
"My anxious moment was the problem with the clutch," Henzler said. "I thought that that would be the end of our race. I talked to one of the Porsche engineers and he said that it is no problem. The gearbox will make it easy. That gave me confidence and we went without a clutch. It was pretty easy to adjust my shifting. We had to be very precise with our downshifts, we had to match the revs with the speed of the rear tires. We had to be careful with the clutch and also chase down the cars ahead of us. There was pressure not to spin, because if you did and stalled the car you could not get going again. The crew had to push us from the pits and we would drop it into gear with the car moving. Another moment was when I got in the car at around 3 a.m. after they just changed the brakes. I pumped the brake pedal but it was never firm. I had to come back into the pits and the team had to bleed the brakes and then they were fine. It put us down a couple of laps, but we were able to make it up. We had to run conservative at the end, which is harder than running on the limit. You have too much time to think when you are conservative. When I saw the 66 TRG car go into the garage, I thought we were next. This is my second Rolex 24 Hour win, the first was in 2005 in a Porsche of course."
"There is some vindication from what happened in qualifying on Thursday -hell yes there is," Buckler said. "It was only by a millimeter and we wish it could have slid, but the rules are the rules. The guys qualified great. We missed the photo opportunity of a lifetime, starting the Rolex 24 one-two, but we will take the win. These guys downplay the clutch issue and the incredible job they had to do. When that happened, about seven or eight hours into the race, we thought about coming to the garage and fixing it. That would have been it for us. I told the guys to run it to the end or break it. Andy, Wolf and Spencer did a great job to not only make it last, but hunt down cars that were two laps ahead of us. Steve and Brendan put in really solid driving performances and made this deal happen. The whole team did a great job. There are five guys up here, but over 80 made this all happen."
The No. 67 was not the only story for TRG. The No. 4 TRG/Children's Tumor Foundation/Porsche came home in eighth; the No. 66 TRG/Viper Exchange/Cabana Cachaca Rum/NOS Energy Drink/Porsche was classified as 13th; the No. 54 TRG/Black Swan/GMG/Porsche classified in 16th, and the No. 53 TRG/Nadeau Motorsports/North American Baseball League/Porsche finished 21st.
Ron Yarab, Daniel Graeff, Richard Zahn, Kenny Wallace and Ryan Eversley in the No. 4 TRG/Children's Tumor Foundation/Luna-C Clothing/Porsche was made up of a group of veteran racers who took a more conservative approach which resulted in a very rewarding eighth place finish.
"The race has taken my breath away," Zahn said. "We had a great team. Everyone did their job. You really don't know how important that is until you are down to the last minutes of the race and you are looking at a good finish and the car is still running. We had a good group of guys that didn't push the car beyond the limit. We kept within ourselves and were able to get a pretty good result."
The No. 66 TRG/Viper Exchange/Cabana Cachaca Rum/NOS Energy Drink/Porsche was a fixture at the front of the field all race. The 66 guys had their 997 in the lead for a time. At the 22 hour mark the team was third and had their sights set on second, or a possible win. An unfortunate failure in the differential sidelined the car classifying the team of Ben Keating, Tim George Jr., Dominik Farnbacher and Lucas Luhr in 13th.
"The race was an absolutely wonderful event, it lived up to all of the hype," Keating said. "Up and down, up and down, I feel like I've lived a whole years worth of drama in the last 24 hours. It didn't end like we wanted it to, but man what an experience. We started the race from the pole. I got the second stint and we were third. We went from third down a bunch of laps then back to third and then did it again. My wife turned to me and said, I thought I would never be so happy to be in third place. We came in thinking we were going to win it. We had some unfortunate circumstances. We had a solid third place in the 22nd hour. In order to finish first, you must first finish. We did have a shot at the win. We hoped we would be able to work past the 48 car and give TRG a one-two."
"I did a lot of laps in the Rolex 24 driving for TRG this year," George Jr. said. "I never did a double stint in all of my Grand-Am history- and at 4 a.m. that was pretty cool. It felt good to be able to gain some laps back for the team. NOS Energy Drink and Cabana Cachaca are great partners and it was fun doing at track activation for them. It's disappointing after all the hard work the crew put in and my co-drivers, not to get at least a podium. The hope to earn the coveted Rolex winners watch is part of what keeps us coming back. The other part is the experience. This year was one of my best memories, though we didn't end up in Victory Lane. Any driving time is a good thing when I'm trying to be at the top of my game. We only race one road course in ARCA this season. The Rolex 24 is a great way to kick-off the season. This was my fourth consecutive year. I hope that one of these years we will leave Daytona with the win. Perhaps this will be in two-weeks with Richard Childress Racing in the ARCA Series."
The No. 54 TRG/Black Swan Racing/GMG/Porsche of Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, James Sofronas, Bret Curtis, and Patrick Pilet were running a great race, including leading several laps. With only four hours remaining the team had a shock issue, which may have been caused by some early morning contact with a DP car. The part broke, sending Pilet into the wall and severely damaging the right rear of the Porsche. The team was classified in 16th.
"Daytona is all about good luck and bad luck," Sofronas said. "We had a shock break. We are trying to figure out when that happened. I had one of my GMG clients watching on TV and he mentioned he saw the rear going down in the Bus Stop. It is disappointing when you are second with four-hours to go, you are optimistic. We got bit. It wasn't worth risking the driver and car at that point and we packed it in."
"Our Rolex 24 Hour was challenging," Curtis said. "This race is tough. It is a long event with a lot good competition. It is also very hard on equipment. I think we had a part failure. We were P2 with two-and-a-half-hours to go with our pros in the car. It is disappointing, but I guess that is why you keep coming back."
"It is hard to say exactly what happened to the car," Pappas said. "We had some contact early in the morning with a DP that may have had something to do with it. It may just have failed. This type of part doesn't fail. The failure caused the right rear of the car to hit the wall. We then had tire and chassis clearance issues and it wasn't safe to continue. The team worked really hard all week and all race. We were a podium finisher today if not the winner. It is motivation to come back. We have unfinished business here. Nobody wants to put a busted car in the trailer without a result. The crew did amazing pit stops and the car was fantastic all race. It is a no fault error, which is racing."
No. 53 TRG/Nadeau Motorsports/North American League/RU Focused.com/Quest Software/Porsche piloted by Coulter Mulligan, Jim Michaelian, Bob Doyle, Dr. Joe Castellano, and Ken Dobson was able to soldier onto a 21st place finish at the checkered flag.
"It was great," Mulligan said. "We had a little trouble in the early morning. We set the goal for ourselves to finish the race and that is what we did. Daytona is an incredible track with a lot of history. I am just happy to have run the race. It makes me thirsty for more. I am going to make an effort to come back next year and get a better result. Even if I never race again, this was worth it."
"It was a little frustrating," Doyle said. "We spent more time in the pits and garage than we wanted to. This is my second time doing this and you learn that to come here and be mistake free is very difficult. Ten minutes in we had a cracked windshield. And then we had a clutch and a few incidents with other cars. It can be frustrating. We wanted to have a smooth and mistake free run, but I think a lot of the cars out there had the same goal. But, it was nice to be running at the end and seeing the checker."
We had a couple of incidents with the car," Castellano said. "The guys had to work on the clutch and then I had a lock-up in the Horse Shoe and I hit the wall head on. So we had the car in the garage during the race. We had a good group of guys and I had a good time."
"Rich, Ron, Daniel, Kenny and Ryan in the number four did a really great job," Buckler said. "They really took a great approach to the event and they kept all of the fenders on the car and were rewarded with a top 10 finish. Ben, Tim, Dominik and Lucas were fast and this car was one of the favorites. They were a legitimate threat for the podium and a definite possibility for the win. With four guys they did a great job cycling through the car and keeping it up at the front. They just had some tough luck. Tim, Jeroen, Bret, James and Patrick ran a quiet, fast and smart race. They were upfront the whole event until just four hours to go. They had a strategy that they stuck to and it almost worked for them. I know they have the fire to come back next year and win this thing. Coulter, Jim, Joe, Bob and Ken were late adds to our program. I was impressed with how they all came together as a team, and I was proud that they took the checkered flag. I am very proud of all of our crew. They performed excellent pit stops, but most importantly the prep work by everyone at TRG in the two months leading up to the race! I don't think we had a single penalty for a pit infraction by a crew member. This is a grueling race, but when you do it with a bunch of your friends it makes it fun. My hat is off to everyone."
Round two of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will be run at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 4-5.
TRG Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona entries:
No. 4 TRG/Children's Tumor Foundation/Luna-C Clothing/Porsche
No. 53 TRG/Nadeau Motorsports/North American League/Porsche
Dr. Joe Castellano
No. 54 TRG/Black Swan Racing/GMG/Porsche
No. 66 TRG/Viper Exchange/Cabana Cachaca Rum/NOS Energy Drink/Porsche
Tim George Jr.
No. 67 TRG/Sargent & Lundy/South Point Hotel & Casino/Porsche
TRG is a full-service motorsports company offering a total driver ladder approach. This approach starts with track days, goes to club events, up into street stock series and culminates in the ultimate goal of professional motorsports. With sports car focused facilities in Petaluma, California (Infineon Raceway) and Millville, New Jersey (New Jersey Motorsports Park) the team can offer turn-key support as well as arrive-and-drive programs.
The company's NASCAR operations are headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina. The team fields a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry and has the capacity to run ARCA, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.