Laguna Seca, home of "The World Famous Corkscrew," one of the most notorious stretches of road course anywhere on the planet, is next up for The Racer's Group. It has almost become TRG's second home, especially when looking at the recent success there. On Saturday, the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the nearby Petaluma, CA-based team looking for its third straight win in GTC class with its Porsche GT3 Cup entries.
After strong runs at Sebring and Long Beach that fell just short of victory, TRG couldn't ask for a better place to have the stars align for the rest of the season. Expectations are high, especially with the track so close to TRG headquarters, and the past two races there have proven that TRG knows what it takes to win in Monterey.
The now-familiar driver line-up of Ben Keating and Damien Faulkner will take the wheel of the Port Lavaca Auto Group/ViperExchange/Adobe Road Winery No. 66 Porsche GT3. Keating, who had a heroic run at Sebring starting the race with a triple-stint, will set the pace with hopes of echoing his teammates form of 2011 and 2012. Faulkner, his co-driver, was one of the fastest in GTC at Long Beach three weeks ago, and has displayed incredible quickness every time he's been behind the wheel.
In the Bellissima/Adobe Road Winery No. 68 car, Andrew Novich will be making his ALMS debut. Novich, a California native, got his start in the Jetta TDI Cup, and has most recently been running in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Novich has shown incredible speed in races and is more than ready to make his first start in the American Le Mans Series.
Novich will have the perfect co-driver in the No. 68 with veteran Craig Stanton. Stanton has driven with TRG in both ALMS races this season, showcasing his quickness and experience. Stanton has driven for TRG in years past, but in 2013 has joined back up for the longer endurance races with Keating and Faulkner.
With two flawless runs over the last two years, TRG is a rare back-to-back winner in GTC. With a three-peat there for the taking, TRG is hoping to make a little history.
Damien Faulkner on Laguna Seca:
"Everybody adores Laguna Seca. The track itself has just about every challenge a circuit could possibly muster. It's also situated in a very beautiful part of California. Furthermore, this race is a home race for TRG. They have owned this race the last couple of years. I think we have a good package and driving with Ben also brings its benefits. He's really strong and serious about racing. This will be my fourth race at the track, and I'm aiming for my first victory there!"
Kevin Buckler on the track and the race:
"Everyone loves Laguna Seca. What's not to love? The Monterey Peninsula is a truly magical place and this world class race track is one of my personal favorites. We have won in everything we have raced here and backing up our last two years success will be paramount. This driver lineup is strong, this is our home and our team is ready!"
Ben Keating on the importance of this race:
"This race is extremely important for us. The GTC points battle is very tight and we need to make sure we are getting into the mix. We have not had our fair share of luck so far this season. I think we are due for a little. We want to win!"
Andrew Novich on driving with TRG:
"I've been talking with Kevin for a while about putting a deal together and getting me into a GTC car. After several attempts, finally all of the pieces are coming together. I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity TRG is giving me by welcoming me into their racing family. I grew up watching this team racing in the Rolex 24, and to be able put those team overalls on, and to strap myself into one of their Porsche GT3s, I'm getting sweaty palms just thinking about it!"
(LONG BEACH, CA) April 21 – TRG took a top five finish in Long Beach after a strong effort and a fuel strategy that was mere laps from playing out into a victory. The Port Lavaca Auto Group/ ViperExchange No. 66 and Adobe Road Winery/Spectra Resources Corporation No. 68 Porsches were some of the fastest on the track all race, but penalties set back one, while the pit strategy for the other was just one lap from coming up roses.
After some risky fuel strategy, TRG and the No. 68 Porsche had just enough left in the tank for the finish at Long Beach. With 30 minutes left in the race, Craig Stanton was running hard in 5th position, slightly conserving fuel after stopping just over an hour in and taking over for Bret Curtis who ran a flawless stint. Without a long caution, it was believed that the four cars in front would all need to stop again in order to make it to the end. After the first half of the race was riddled with caution flags, the second half was much cleaner with a faster pace and allowed for the No. 68 to pressure the four leaders as the foursome cut back their lap times to conserve fuel.
In the end, the four did not have to pit, relegating Stanton and Curtis to take fifth on the historic downtown circuit.
The No. 66 ran into trouble early with an unfortunate 60 second penalty for avoidable contact just after the start of the race, then a 20 second penalty for a pitstop mishap with too many crewmen giving the car a push on pit lane. Faulkner and Keating both drove the car hard and had some of the fastest laps of the race.
Faulkner on the No. 66 car and the team:
I feel like the team did a great job of getting the car ready after a disappointing qualifying, it was solid, but we’re underachieving at the moment. We know what we have to do going forward, and we will get there, everyone is headed in the right direction. Ben was fantastic for never seeing the track, and he showed that he’s one of the fastest gentleman drivers there is.
Keating on racing at Long Beach:
The event at Long Beach is magnificent, with so many different races going on, it’s truly a spectacle. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. With Indy, ALMS, World Challenge and Drift all taking place here, it’s a big weekend and it’s a fantastic experience.
Curtis on the track and the car:
I love Long Beach, it’s like a hometown race for me, so I’ve got friends and family here and the car was solid. We tried a different fuel strategy that almost paid off, but I felt really good about our run.
Stanton on Long Beach and the car:
I love Long Beach, I bike here, my family and friends were all here, and I will take fifth any day. The car felt great, it was fast and we were up there with the leaders the entire time. I really felt like we had a great run here. Bret was great, and the guys at TRG had the car dialed-in.
SEBRING, FL (March 13th) – The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron kicks off with the 61st running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the most grueling endurance races on the planet. The Racer's Group enters the race coming off of a rock-solid Winter Test where they were quickest among the GTC competitors.
Full-season drivers Ben Keating and Damien Faulkner will take the seat for the first time in the Florida Lottery/Viper Exchange/Port Lavaca Auto Group No. 66 Porsche GT3 Cup car. TRG is proud to welcome the Florida Lottery as a sponsor for the weekend on both cars. Keating, the reigning two-time SRT Viper Cup champion, and accomplished endurance racer will join his teammate Damien Faulkner in one of the class's strongest season entries.
Hailing from Ireland, Faulkner is a Porsche superstar with wins and poles across the globe. Two years ago, he won at Sebring in GTC class and earned a podium last year. An outstanding qualifier, Faulkner posted six GTC pole positions a year ago.
The punishing 12 Hours of Sebring as well as Petit Le Mans will feature Porsche ace Craig Stanton, who has previously run with TRG. In 2008 and 2009, Stanton drove Porsches with TRG after showing strong success in both the Koni Challenge and Grand-Am Series. Stanton is considered by many one of the best endurance racers in the field. He has earned 13 podiums in the ALMS, including a win a Road America.
The experience of the three drivers, coupled with the dialed-in Porsche, create a formidable GTC team for the race.
Newly announced for the B+/ Vitalz/Florida Lottery No. 68 car are drivers Al Carter, Kevin Estre and Carlos de Quesada. Carter, a proponent of BePositive.org, a foundation for kids helping kids fight cancer, is a veteran of Grand-Am racing and has won two Skip Barber Series Master Championships in a row. Last year, Carter drove twice with TRG in ALMS scoring podiums both times with a win at the Baltimore Grand Prix and a runner-up spot at Mid-Ohio (in which TRG actually earned first place points). Carter is hoping that Estre and de Quesada can help him earn a TRG "trifecta" here at Sebring.
The first of Carter's co-drivers is the French-born Estre, who began racing in 2001 in predominantly single-seaters through 2007. In 2008 he began in GT and soon ran in the FIA GT3 European Championship. In 2011, Estre claimed his first win in the Mobil 1 Porsche Supercup and ended up winning the Rookie Championship for the 2011 season, becoming the Porsche Carrera Cup champion of France.
Rounding out the final seat in the No. 68 is Carlos de Quesada, whose company Vitalz, comes aboard as one of the team’s sponsors. Vitalz, founded in 2008 by an experienced group of technologists and medical professionals, rethinks the way patients and providers store, access and use health information. De Quesada not only restores and races vintage Porsches, but he gets behind the wheel, too. He has had amazing success in professional sports car racing. In 2007, de Quesada won the 24 Hours of Daytona and has recently been at the helm of a strong Daytona Prototype team. He now looks to add the 12 Hours of Sebring victory to his list of accomplishments.
Keating on driving at Sebring: "We’ve tested well here and really would like to bring Kevin his first Sebring win. The car is great. Damien, Craig and I are ready. It's a grueling track with lots of great teams and drivers, so we’ll have to bring our 'A' game."
Faulkner on driving at Sebring: "It's fantastic to be with TRG this season - the team has so much depth and so much success and certainly knows how to win. I feel we have a strong driver line up too. Ben Keating will be the man to beat among the amateurs. This season will be easily the most competitive in the short history of GTC. It's been a long winter and it's great to be finally kicking things off here at Sebring. Early in the week we had a challenging day running through a range of settings. We expect to be at the sharp end and we will."
Buckler on the competition this year: "This place just has so much tradition. You look at all the great drivers in the Hall of Fame here and you know what this place means to sports car racing. It's a grueling, grueling track as well as an amazing event. We have brought two great cars with an outstanding group of drivers and crew and are ready to do battle. This is the only big one that has eluded TRG and we'd like to bring home the winning trophy at end of day. I'd also like to especially thank the Florida Lottery for jumping on board this weekend, I think the 66 and 68 could be the lucky numbers. We are ready!"
Carter on Sebring: "This is my first 12 Hours of Sebring, and I've heard how difficult and demanding this race is. It's one place where you really need to have a good car and team. TRG has a great reputation in endurance races with wins at Daytona, Petit Le Mans and Le Mans; so I have no doubt we'll be ready for this one from both a preparation and strategy standpoint. I've had some pretty good success with these guys, earning podiums my last two races so I'm going to be going for the trifecta here at Sebring!"
Last Updated (Friday, 15 March 2013 01:33)
SEBRING, FL (February 7th) – The Racer’s Group (TRG) was thrilled to announce Ben Keating, Damien Faulkner and Craig Stanton as drivers in the American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patron in early January, and the decision to go with these experienced drivers is already proving to be a shrewd decision. After the first day of practice at Sebring International Raceway, TRG sits on top of the GTC class after Damien Faulkner put on a fantastic first day of practice, topping it off with a 2:06.514.
The Sebring Winter Test is a two day event where teams in the ALMS participate in preparation for the 12 hour race a month later. Racing among LMP1, LMPC, GT and other GTC cars, the competition between classes, although in practice, remained fierce.
TRG will look to replicate today’s performance in the practices tomorrow as well, further tuning the Porsche 997 GT3 to shave tenths around the airport-turned-track. With the race still a few weeks away, this leaves ample time for the team to test and zero in on the perfect setup, and truly be a serious competitor for not just the 12 Hours of Sebring, but the 2013 GTC class championship.
Faulkner on today’s practice:
We made a lot of changes but must have worked. But that’s what we are down here for – to figure out what works best. That’s what Winter Test is all about.
Buckler on Sebring and grabbing first in the session:
It was a great day here in Sebring today. All of the cars in our class were going really, really fast and everyone was jockeying for position but we seem to hit on a good set up and Damien grabbed P1. The crew guys did a great job on the car all day. I couldn't believe how many changes we made. We are working on more for tomorrow and think we still have some speed to find. I was very proud of the entire TRG team today!
Last Updated (Friday, 08 February 2013 18:17)