The Successful Team Will Make a Splash at the “Monaco of the US”
Petaluma, Calif. (March 31, 2017) For over 40 years, the Long Beach Grand Prix has been the hottest ticket for Southern California motorsports enthusiasts and The Racers Group (TRG) will be on hand to to mark this 43rd edition of America’s number one street race as it pursues a top step of the podium at this milestone event.
Representing TRG on the historic 1.9 mile street circuit in the #991 Porsche 911 GT3 R are veteran Porsche drivers Wolf Henzler and Jan Heylen, who bring success and experience to the 11-turn course that has become a staple on the IMSA calendar and features the powerful GTD class this year.
“A street course is a big challenge to everybody – when you’re exiting the turns, you may slide or you oversteer and you get close to the wall or almost touch it,” observes Henzler, a Porsche Works Driver who has raced both the 911 RSR and the 911 GT3 R in 2016, and will contribute his well-honed skills as a Factory Driver as well as his Porsche racing knowledge to kick off the team’s GTD campaign at the famous Streets of Long Beach. “For me, it’s very special to race in the streets of Long Beach – it’s always a great atmosphere!”
Jan Heylen is considered a Porsche Specialist and one of the strongest Silver Drivers on the current racing circuit. The Belgian’s race experience extends far beyond Porsche, however, with early success in Renault Eurocup, Formula Ford, Formula Three Euroseries, Formula 3000 and the Champ Car World Series.
“Long Beach is a special place for me, when I moved to the US 11 years ago, Long Beach was my first ever race in the US and my first race in ChampCar and walked away with a P8 finish,” says Heylen. “Many of my best friends live in California, so I love coming here. In general, there’s nothing I love more than street courses, they are the ultimate challenge for the drivers, staying with the track as it gets better every session, not making any mistakes.”
The team is joined by long-time partner and sponsor, LaSalle Solutions (a provider of IT life-cycle asset management services and cloud based tools), as well as its friends at Silicon Valley Bank (the bank of the world’s most innovative companies and their investors) and RingCentral (a leading provider of enterprise cloud communications and collaboration solutions).
The team has major corporate events planned starting Wednesday at the new Porsche Experience Center for the kickoff of the weekend and returning on Friday for a private driving day on the multiple tracks at the beautiful new facility with all of the new Porsche models. It is also the new North American home for Porsche Motorsports.
“Just like the podium finish at St. Petersburg, TRG and LaSalle have brought great drivers and a car capable of winning,” says Steven Robb, President of La Salle’s Solutions Group. “We will have over 100 LaSalle fans cheering on the 991 to winners circle.”
Likewise, Marty Piombo, Vice President of Partner Development at RingCentral, is pleased with his company’s partnership with TRG. “RingCentral is proud to be partnered with TRG and the excellent events around the Long Beach Grand Prix,” says Piombo. “We look forward to bringing a fantastic experience to our customers and partners”
John China of Silicon Valley Bank shared his perspective of working with TRG also, stating, “I grew up in Southern California and have such great memories of watching the Long Beach Grand Prix each year, I am so excited to be able to be a part of such an innovative, VIP experience for our guests around this event. We are looking forward to an amazing weekend!”
The team/partner dinner culminates the day upstairs at the exciting 917 restaurant with special selections from the chef and award-winning wines from Adobe Road winery. Saturday and Sunday bring VIP hospitality through the team’s hospitality packages at both the beautiful Hyatt rooftop lounge overlooking all of Long Beach as well as the Seaside Club Suites with backstage pass credentials and full access to the team and drivers.
TRG has put together a spectacular program for both its competition and corporate side and sets the benchmark for all teams on these types of corporate and relationship marketing events.
“The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity for our team – both on the track, behind the scenes and with strong corporate events surrounding this premiere motorsports events,” says TRG CEO Kevin Buckler, a champion racer himself, who has enjoyed over two decades of winning performances.
“This is the most unique situation that I have ever seen where a motorsports event actually created the modern-day city. Long Beach was a dumpy old dangerous port and Navy town and my dad used to forbid me from going up because he knew how much I loved the cars and they used to advertise the race big-time in Southern California, so of course I had to go!” says Buckler. “Over the years the race brought prestige, development, and finances along with some pretty cool attractions that transformed it into the modern-day Long Beach it is today. A huge shout out to Chris Pook for his early vision and courage to stick with it even when it looked like everything was against him in the early days.”
Buckler adds, My friend Jim Michaelian, who has driven Daytona with us many times, is now the Big Boss and has done just a fantastic job of building the brand, dodging the many adversities and putting the Long Beach Grand Prix on the map as one of the most significant and spectacular motorsports events in North America.”
Buckler is proud to be representing Porsche and Porsche Motorsports at what he considers a collective “home turf” event. He credits Jens Walther and his team at Porsche Motorsports for assembling what has to be the best racing support program in the paddock.
“We have everything we need as a customer team and are coming here representing a fantastic brand in one of the premier motorsports events in the world,” says Buckler. “For me, this is most full circle as this is where it all started and Porsche was my car choice.”
“I was a Southern California kid and attended the first eight Long Beach Grand Prix’s starting in 1975 and will never forget sticking my nose through the chain link fence, all that separated me from the screaming Formula One Ferrari of Niki Lauda, in 1976, and watching him break deeper and deeper into turn one. It was just bone chilling and so moving for a young impressionable teenager with cars on his mind. Mario won and it was amazing,” recalls Buckler, who was also on hand to witness his then Formula One hero, Gilles Villeneuve, win the race a few years later.
“To this day, I swear it was a catalyst. I like to joke with my friend Jim Michaelian, the president of Long Beach Grand Prix, that I owe him so much money for all years I used to sneak in,” says Buckler, who is also the proprietor of the award-winning Adobe Road Winery, which is omnipresent at the premium events TRG hosts during the race weekend.
Providing live coverage of the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach event is FOX, which will broadcast from the Long Beach Street Circuit beginning at 4 p.m., Saturday, April 8, with with full streaming also available on the Fox Sports Go App with FS1 authentication.
“We’re coming here locked and loaded and ready,” says Buckler. “We’re really looking forward to this weekend. Having Wolf and Jan teaming together is an exceptional opportunity for the entire team this weekend and we are looking to a terrific event and have our eyes set on the prize.“
For more information about the The Racers Group’s presence at the Long Beach Grand Prix, visittheracersgroup.com/events/long-beach-grand-prix. Fans are encouraged to check-in the with team through the weekend at www.TheRacersGroup.com and on social media @TheRacersGroup with hashtag #RACETRG.