The Racers Group is hard at work making final preparations to their entries for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and the BMW Endurance Challenge races at the end of the month. Dual tests of teamwork, engineering, and driver grit take place at the palatial Daytona International Speedway, January 26-29. TRG’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry is the No. 991 TRG LaSalle Solutions/Cavall 7/Adobe Road Wines Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTD class, paired with the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge entry, the No. 3 Stor-It Self Storage/Mobettah Collectible Cars Aston Martin V8 Vantage in the GS class.
As a premier privateer operator of the Porsche 911 GT3 R, the team has both a longstanding reputation of success at the 24 Hours at Daytona to uphold as well as a much-lauded “homecoming” with the Porsche marque. Since clinching four wins with the German crest in the 2000s, team CEO Kevin Buckler is now looking for his fifth victory at this race – one of the most famous enduros on the global motorsports calendar – in 2017. The winning machinery is in place as well as a strong team of drivers. Porsche Works pilot Wolf Henzler (Germany) is joined by Santiago Creel (Mexico), Jan Heylen (Belgium), Mike Hedlund (USA) and Tim Pappas (USA) in a formidable lineup that casts no doubts on the ultimate goal.
The Porsche drivers all had a chance to work together in advance of this huge event with multiple test sessions at “The Roar Before the 24,” which culminated on January 8th. “I feel like the chemistry is good here. The team feels familiar to me,” said Henzler. “I have raced here at Daytona with TRG a couple of times so there are many people on the team I have known for a long time. I feel like I’m back at the team I knew before.” In fact, Henzler just competed in the 24 Hours of Dubai with TRG co-driver Santiago Creel in preparation for the Daytona race. At the Roar, Creel also had a positive experience. “Everything went well in general. We had a chance to drive with a wet and a dry track, and at nighttime as well. We tried all kinds of things with the car, and at the end, we had a great time as a team. My times were really good too. This will put us in a great position for the race on the 28th!”
Heylen’s experience at this Florida track qualifies him to take a position of authority on the team’s outlook regarding its potential for success. “The race is getting bigger and better every year, we’ve come here with a brand new car with no laps on it, you’re automatically a little bit behind on the teams who’ve been progressing all winter. But in saying that, I think we’ve done really well,” he stated. “I’ve done this so many times that I’m confident by the time we come back here it will be exactly where we need it to be. Right now, it’s all about getting everybody comfortable in the car, and that’s what we’re doing. Kevin has a very good understanding of what it takes to be successful here in Daytona in the long distance race, following protocol, and everything is working out really well so far.”
Returning TRG driver Hedlund is feeling right at home as well. “The Porsche GT3 R is epic! It’s one of the quickest GT3 cars I’ve ever driven. I have a lot of seat time in the 911 Cup and in the 911 RSR, but the GT3 R is new to me and within just a handful of laps I was up to speed and totally comfortable in the car,” he said. “My co-drivers have been really good. It’s nice to get reunited with Jan Heylen and Wolf Henzler again, I’ve driven with both for seasons in various series, and with both in Porsches. I’m looking forward to the race and I think we’ll be pretty competitive!”
“I’m really excited to join the No. 991 TRG Porsche for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona,” said Pappas. “This will actually be the second time that I have collaborated on this race with Kevin and the TRG team, but they’ve been among the best in this race with so much experience. Daytona is a wild ride and there are only a few teams that understand how to run it and win it and TRG is certainly one of them. I hope we can be in the mix at the end and then it’s just up to fate. I appreciate this opportunity and I can’t wait for the green flag to drop!”
Aston Martin on the Grid
Taking place just a day prior to the 24-hour enduro is the four-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race: the “BMW Endurance Challenge.” The team’s Aston Martin squad will compete here with some familiar faces. TRG Porsche club racing driver and now Continental Challenge driver, Craig Lyons, and seasoned TRG Aston Martin pilot Kris Wilson will race the blue-and-silver No. 3 TRG Stor-It Self Storage/Mobettah Collectible Cars Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
The men took the opportunity to lay down some rubber during the Roar test weekend. “You walk into a place like Daytona – one of the cathedrals of racing – and you know you’ve got something serious on your hands when you’re at the IMSA level,” said Lyons. “I’m really happy to be moving up. I love the Aston Martin and really enjoy driving it. TRG has prepared the car beautifully.” His co-driver and coach Wilson added, “Craig did a great job for his first time at Daytona. He broke the two-minute barrier and is now part of the club. The Aston Martin ran great and the TRG team learned a lot about the new GT4 specs. It was a good start to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season and we’re all looking forward to returning to Daytona for the race!”
Source. The Racers Group