TRG Wins Grueling Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona

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
- Car 67 ran more than 16-hours without a clutch—-push started at every pit stop
- Three TRG Rolex cars led laps, 67,66 and 54
- TRG entered five cars, twice as many as any other team and 10% of the field

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. The strategy started even before the 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. Unable to use the clutch to shift the car, the team had literally decided to pull the car back to the garage. The crew, equipment and tools were already back in the garage waiting when Team Owner Kevin Buckler made a critical, last-second decision to keep the car out on track and either run or break. Since pulling the car in to the garage would certainly kill any chance of winning, Buckler felt it was worth the risk to go ahead and run without the clutch in the hopes that the car just may be able to last—even though the odds were low. At each pitstop, 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 to keep the transmission wear at a minimum and 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 were flawless and didn’t put a wheel wrong, running conservative yet aggressive laps as they overcame a number of issues.

“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 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. There was pressure not to spin, because if you did and stalled the car you could not get going again. 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 and we missed the photo opportunity of a lifetime, starting the Rolex 24 one-two, but we will happily take the win. These guys are sort of downplaying the clutch issue and the incredible job they had to do but they were heroes. When that happened, about seven or eight hours into the race, we thought about coming to the garage and fixing it. The guys and tools were in the garage and the car was ready to be pushed back. That would have been it for us. I told the guys to run it to the end or break it—that was the decision even though I knew this would be almost impossible. We didn’t come here to finish 2nd. 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 took a lot of pressure off of the other guys and made this deal happen. All 5 of them were Rock Stars today. The whole team did a great job. There are five guys up here on the podium, 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/Luna-C Clothing 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 Racing/GMG Porsche classified in 16th, and the No. 53 TRG/Nadeau Motorsports/North American Baseball League/R U Focused.com/Quest Software 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 an incredible eighth place finish. The team received some strong recognition for their excellent driving and very worthy cause.

The Children’s Tumor Foundation has used The Rolex 24 as a means of fundraising for the last three years, however the organization received record numbers this year, with the total currently exceeding $450,000 and still counting! The organization is still accepting donations, feel free to visit www.racing4research.org.

“On a number of levels, we've completely exceeded our goals,” Graeff said. “We'd already raised more than previously before we even arrived for the race week, and to couple that with finishing so strongly is just amazing. Kenny Wallace added tremendous value to awareness for the program, and when combined with the prestige of TRG, Ron, Kenny, Rich and Ryan all drove flawlessly. This is such a team effort, we're all ecstatic.”

"This went as well as could possibly be expected," stated Ron Yarab. "Ron did a great job, and I think where he qualified turned a lot of heads. To have trouble early on, keep our heads down and keep digging is what this event is all about. It's a great result for everyone."

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 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. 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.

"I really have to give all the respect in the world to the TRG crew," said car owner Brian Nadeau. "The guys worked really hard to get this car ready, and then had to work even harder to get it back on track after all the incidents, so I can't thank everyone enough."

“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.”

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.”

“Ron, Daniel, Kenny Rich and Ryan in the #4 did a really great job,” Buckler said. “They drivers, team and the CTF were our other shining stars this weekend with an incredible top 10 result. Seeing the success of the CTF program and knowing we were part of it was really rewarding. Ben, Tim, Dominik and Lucas were fast and this car was one of the race favorites. They were a legitimate threat 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. Sitting up on the box with my partner on the car, Brian Nadeau was really nice. 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.”
 

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