PETALUMA, CA (November 15) - TRG's Steve Miller and Chris Pallis take their Porsche GT3 Cup cars to Austin, TX this weekend to compete in the Pirelli GT3 Cup race season finale, part of the inaugural F1 event at the new Circuit of the Americas where a crowd of more than 100,000 is expected for Sunday's race.
"To be able to showcase our team on the same day as Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsports, unleashes a new era at a spectacular new layout, is an amazing opportunity," said TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "TRG constantly looks for opportunities like these for our drivers, and we are really, really excited to be a part of this fabulous race weekend."
Miller and Pallis, both from Seattle, WA, were among the top competitors this season in the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA West series. Over the 12-race circuit, Pallis captured six podiums, including a second place finish in Round Five at Laguna Seca. Miller, meanwhile, charted seven podiums, including three wins at Laguna Seca (Rounds Five and Six) and Sonoma Raceway (Round 9).
"These guys have battled all year," said team manager Derek Kosnoski. "We have been competitive every race, and both Steve and Chris have turned in some really great performances. To come away with 13 podiums between them is a really good year. And now we have a chance to put the cherry on top at one of the most amazing new tracks in the United States. I know we are all pumped."
Pallis, who finished third in this year's championship, has raced in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona five times (2005-2009) and the Le Mans Classic in 2009. He was the Cascade 8-Hour Endurance Champion in 2008.
"We had a really good year this year," said Pallis, "and I think the most fun was racing against Steve at Laguna Seca where we finished one-two."
Miller finished second in this year's Pirelli Cup thanks in part to his sweep of Rounds Five and Six at Laguna Seca. In addition to his other win at Sonoma Raceway, he also had three second place finishes as well. He is much on the same page with his TRG teammate Pallis with regard to season highlights.
"Laguna Seca and Sonoma are two of my favorite tracks," said Miller. "We won three out of four on those layouts so I guess that pretty much attests to that. But I am really looking forward to Austin. It's great to be one of the first to race on COTA, and hopefully this F1 race and racetrack will raise the profile of road racing in America and create more enthusiasts of such a great way to race."
"These guys were a pleasure to have in the TRG program this year," said Buckler. "The Pirelli Cup and multiple other programs are an integral part of what we do here at TRG as we support drivers in the various organizations of racing they choose to tackle. Fortunately, we have a strong record of success, which draws capable drivers to us and we can then win together on all fronts. Steve and Chris should do well at Austin this weekend. It's very cool to be among the first guys to get a crack at racing there, and we look forward to finishing the season on a high note with our friends."
PETALUMA, CA (October 22) - Season finales are always memorable, and the 15th Annual Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta was no different. Cast the 1,000-mile contest as one of sportscar's iconic and memorable races that always draws significant crowds and media coverage, and the stage becomes set. For TRG, that stage resulted in two hard-fought podiums with its pair of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars claiming a second and third by the time night had fallen.
"What an absolutely incredible run and an amazing performance by the entire TRG squad," stated team owner Kevin Buckler. "We've been here practicing since last Sunday, and we have had our share of challenges as well as a couple of crashes in testing. The crew guys have been our heroes all year, but this week and being the last big race of the year really put everybody to the test. Same with the drivers - everybody knew that come race day, we all had to be on our 'A' game and all the guys delivered. Even though we had a few curve balls in the race, we rebounded back every time and put ourselves in contention."
Testing and practice earlier in the week had its share of surprises and challenges that kept the suspense running high. The No. 66 Venezuela / Avior Airlines/ Breast Cancer Awareness Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car featured Venezuelan newcomer Nelson Canache, Jr, regular season teammate Emilio DiGuida and TRG team driver Spencer Pumpelly. TRG's No. 68 grupogume.com/ Adobe Road Winery Porsche was driven by former Porsche factory driver Emmanuel Collard, series newcomer Manuel Gutierrez, Jr. of Mexico, and California native Mike Hedlund.
Qualifying introduced a series of challenges that would follow during the race. Pumpelly qualified P3, while Collard in No. 68 qualified P7 after its aero was compromised with a damaged splitter. A power steering issue surfaced in Pumpelly's car during race morning warm-up, necessitating an immediate repair. By rule, any work done to a car after qualifying loses its qualifying position. Despite starting at the back of the field, Pumpelly gave TRG a great performance at the start. Moving from eight to fourth within the first 30 minutes, he eventually positioned himself in first by the first full-course caution.
Once the course returned to green, driver changes ensued and Emilio DiGuida took over the controls and maintained good position during his stint while Collard did a great job making solid gains along the way.
Keeping up with the class leader was a challenge as minor technical issues kept appearing throughout the race after an earlier off-track and recovery. Pumpelly continuously experienced issues with the throttle when a broken rear sway bar sent him in to a gravel-trap just over four hours into the race.
Canache in the No. 66, as well as Collard and Gutierrez in the No. 68, ran great times all throughout their stints. Consistency and patience brought them both up through the field as attrition also began to occur. For his first ever Petit Le Mans, Hedlund put in a super solid performance doing a double stint and maintained the No. 68 in third as Canache moved the No. 66 up to fifth.
Pumpelly and Gutierrez ran the last stint of the race in the No. 66 and No. 68 respectively. As is often the case in premier endurance racing, the last laps are almost always the most exciting part of the event. In the last hour, accident avoidance and fuel strategy brought TRG a fantastic finish with Pumpelly finishing second in the No. 66 and Gutierrez earning third in No. 68.
"This was certainly a challenging race," explained Pumpelly. "We had some technical problems with the car, which were a little hard to drive around. We eventually got things sorted, but that cost us our qualifying position. We had 10-hours/1,000 miles to get through the field, and we did!"
"The Porsche is very different from the other cars I've driven in the past," says DiGuida. "They like to be driven in a very certain way, and in a race like this you have to manage not only your own car, but deal with a lot of fast traffic around you. I was hoping for a podium finish at Petit, the last race of the season, and we were lucky enough to capture it."
Manuel Gutierrez Jr. may be a newcomer to TRG but performed exceptionally behind the wheel.
"It took a little while to get familiar with the car, but being new to the team, everyone really made me feel comfortable which helped me do my job as a driver," says Gutierrez. "This was certainly a great experience. Without a doubt the strategy in the pits brought us to the podium."
"This was the best way to end the season," explained Canache. "Kevin made the right calls in the pits. Our drivers were solid and we were consistent to the end. Walking away from a podium finish after 1,000-miles of racing feels amazing."
"Taking two of the three podium spots at one of the most important endurance races in North America is an amazing accomplishment for our organization and I just want to give a huge 'WAY TO GO GUYS!!!' to everyone on the TRG squad. This race was full of surprises and we made all the right calls and it paid off. Now its time to start planning for 2013, and we can't wait," said Buckler.
Last Updated (Monday, 22 October 2012 22:18)
PETALUMA, CA - The Racer's Group will have both barrels loaded this weekend when it concludes the American Le Mans Series season at one of the most famous races on the sports car calendar, Petit Le Mans.
Boasting an international field, TRG's No. 66 Venezuela / Avior Airlines/ Breast Cancer Awareness Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car will feature Venezuelan newcomer Nelson Canache, Jr, regular season teammate Emilio DiGuida, and TRG Team Driver Spencer Pumpelly. TRG's No. 68 grupogume.com/ Adobe Road Winery Porsche will be driven by former Porsche Factory Driver Emmanuel Collard, series newcomer Manuel Gutierrez, Jr. of Mexico, and California native Mike Hedlund.
"We are going after this one," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "We have two very solid cars with a great mix of experienced drivers and some very, very good young talent. Some of these guys are unknowns in the ALMS, but I suspect that won't be the case once this weekend is over."
Canache, in the No. 66 Porsche, comes from a diverse racing history, including ARCA, Mazda's MX-5 Challenge, and the Grand-Am's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
"He's a solid driver and has a really well rounded racing background," said Buckler. "There seems to be a lot of talent coming out of Venezuela and Emilio has been superb at helping us identify some of the new emerging stars. I have really liked Nelson's approach to this event so far and can't wait to see how he does in the race. He is a great fit for TRG."
DiGuida, TRG's regular season driver and also from Venezuela, earned his first ALMS win earlier this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca followed up with a second win at Mosport, Canada and has been a solid performer with Pumpelly much of the season. While he has yet to tackle the terrain and famous Road Atlanta "esses," he believes he is well-prepared for the season endurance finale.
"I feel that I have improved as the season has gone along," says DiGuida, "I know how demanding this race is and I am going to do my best with Spencer and Nelson to bring home a podium, hopefully the top step of the podium."
Pumpelly, a resident of Atlanta, brings numerous sports cars wins to the international classic, including a victory this year at Mosport. He has been looking forward to this event all year and not simply because it is in his backyard.
"Petit Le Mans is a special event for any driver. It has developed such a reputation on the high profile international race scene," says Pumpelly. "The track is great - a real challenge. Add in all the great professional drivers from all the classes from around the world, as well as the transition from day to night racing and you have one exciting day. And it can be a long day, so you have to be patient, while at the same time realizing it's a 10-hour, 1,000 mile sprint at well."
Gutierrez was a two-time karting champion in Mexico in 2005 and 2006 with the Roax Jr. and Max International series. He also competed in the Continental GTS series in 2010. This season, the young driver caught Buckler's eye at a couple of in-season test days.
"We had heard that Manuel was a real up-and-comer, so we tested with him at Indy, VIR and Watkins Glen," said Buckler, "and boy, did we like what we saw. He is young, fast and smart; and I bet he will really turn some heads this week at Petit Le Mans in his ALMS debut. This is his first Professional race with us and its a big one. All I can say on this guy is stay tuned!"
Hedlund, in the No. 68 Porsche, is no newcomer to TRG. He ran with the team at both the Daytona 24 earlier this year and the six-hour race at Laguna Seca delivering solid performances in both events.
"Mike is super serious and a solid driver," said Bucker. "It is really a breath of fresh air to find a young driver that is this committed to being a total professional both on and off the track. He is fast and very calculating in his approach to professional racing. I actually think he is a model to all the other drivers on how he approaches this and it's guys like this that we can win championships with."
The veteran Collard brings Petit Le Mans race-win experience to the cockpit. In 1998, he won Petit Le Mans in the GT class driving a Ferrari. A former Porsche Factory driver for many years, Manu has the experience and successes to anchor the 68 line up.
"It is fantastic to have Manu on our team," said Buckler. "He has driven for us three times before and in every case all I can say is.....amazing. He brings a ton of experience and knowledge to this young team and these guys have a real shot at the win."
This season, TRG has earned first place points four times, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mosport, Mid-Ohio and Baltimore. With a strong two-car driver lineup, it hopes to add a fifth and take that momentum into the ALMS' final 2013 season.
"Our tradition is rich here," said Buckler. "We won at Petit two years ago and came up short last year in a run at the season championship. We want this one very badly and the entire team, our Drivers, our at track team members and the staff back in Petaluma, CA is focused very intently on making that happen. We've put together a great driver lineup for a two-car team and I'm really proud of the job that the crew has done here. With all of our "back and forth" between the two series and all of the testing and events--- to have two perfect cars ready to go for this weekend is a testament to these guys and how hard they work, and I'm really proud of them."
Event coverage begins with live qualifying on ESPN3.com this Friday, October 19 at 1:50pm EDT followed by live race coverage on Saturday, October 20 at 11:15am EDT. A rebroadcast will air on ESPN 2 on Sunday, October 21 at 1:00pm EDT.
Be sure to follow TRG on facebook for up-to-the-moment photos and video from Petit Le Mans at www.facebook.com/theracersgroup.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:05)
PETALUMA, CA (September 30, 2012): The day may have started slowly for TRG in the Rolex Grand-Am finale at Lime Rock Park but by the end of the day the No. 66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car worked its way into the top five, giving Porsche its highest finish among GT class entrants.
Bob Doyle, hampered by a black flag resulting from another car's incident in qualifying, started the car in the 14th
GT spot. The early portion of the race, including the green flag, saw several cautions and Doyle kept the car on pace with his RUFocused.com
Porsche moving the car forward with every opportunity.
"I know this track pretty well,"said Doyle, "and I know that the short length of this track keeps cars on top of you at all times. My goal was to run as hard as I could and hand the car over the Spencer (Pumpelly) to make a run at it and he did."
"Bob did a great job," said the veteran Pumpelly. "Everyone did! The crew gave me some super pit stops, we avoided some of the attrition on the track and took advantage of situations that were handed to us."
Pumpelly worked the TRG Porsche into sixth position by late in the race when a caution came out with about 25 minutes remaining bunching the field. Taking tires and a splash of fuel, Pumpelly kept within 10 seconds of the leader but the 3.8 liter Porsche was not able to make a run to gain much ground. When the No. 44 leading Porsche pulled in with only two laps remaining for running out of fuel, the No. 66 car propelled into fifth.
"Our guys just kept after it all day long," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "We knew we probably didn’t have the strongest car overall today, but to be the top finishing Porsche says we did a lot right. We were smart and consistent and Bob drove an awesome opening stint. My hats off to Bob, Spencer and the entire crew for an excellent season finale run."
TRG is a full-service motorsports company offering a total driver ladder approach, as well as comprehensive sponsorship and business opportunities. For drivers, this approach starts with track days, goes to club events, up into street stock series and culminates in the ultimate goal of professional motorsports. For sponsors and business partners, this method starts with everything from executive events and traditional sponsorship models, to comprehensive business-to-business opportunities and experiential marketing. The team races in America's two largest sport car series - the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and can offer turn-key marketing programs as well as arrive-and-drive support.
The Racer's Group was founded in 1993 and has been competing at the top level of motor racing. The team boasts Rolex Series GT championships in 2005 and 2006 and holds the record for the most wins in GRAND-AM with 32. The team's resume is highlighted by four championships, four Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona victories, and a Le Mans 24 Hour win.
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Detailed team info can be viewed at www.theracersgroup.com.
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Last Updated (Monday, 01 October 2012 20:51)