The Team Is Offering a VIP Experience at This Year’s Rolex 24 to Celebrate the Last Overall Win by a GT Car
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kevin Buckler’s race team The Racers Group, or TRG for short, holds a special place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona timeline.
Twenty years ago, TRG scored the overall win in a Porsche 911 RSR GT – the last GT race car to nab the top podium position. Since 2004, prototypes have dominated the twice-around-the-clock endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.
“We had a really good strategy for that race,” Buckler said. “We decided to push from the first lap with the idea of staying on the lead lap, and it worked.”
On the 20th anniversary of Buckler’s historic victory with co-drivers Jorg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard and Michael Schrom, Buckler has planned a TRG reunion for the upcoming race weekend. The Boardwalk Club at Lake Lloyd inside the track will serve as headquarters for the Jan. 26-29 event. Two-, three- and four-day packages are available to the public.
TRG has a long history at Daytona. Buckler entered at least one car for 22 straight years for the Rolex 24. His totals are impressive – 74 car entries involving 215 different drivers.
“When you think about it, that’s like freaking crazy!” he said.
But the 2003 Rolex 24 will always hold a special place in his heart.
In 1999, the GRAND-AM sanctioning body was created and ran races under the Rolex Sports Car Series banner. Up until 2002, Sports Racing Prototypes were allowed into competition. In 2003, the series introduced the Daytona Prototype (DP) class but only had six cars entered for the Rolex 24.
“Those cars were really quick, but we knew they’d be kind of fragile,” Buckler said.
Those DPs all suffered mechanical ailments over the course of the event. Meanwhile, the No. 66 TRG Porsche kept clicking off laps and staying off pit lane other than necessary stops for fuel, tires and driver changes.
“We won class the year before and we knew how solid the Porsches were,” Buckler said. “We knew the DPs were faster than us by three or four seconds a lap, but we could double stint our tires and had a pretty good-sized fuel cell.
“I sat down with my guys and said, ‘Look at the math here. If we run a perfect race and press these guys, we might be able to press them into a mistake.’ We started running double stints with me, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister and stayed on it. About six hours into the race, there was a yellow flag and I looked at the scoring pylon and there were four prototypes and our No. 66 car. We were still on the lead lap.”
Buckler said the turning point came in the wee hours on Sunday. The No. 66 car had earned the GT class pole with a lap of 1 minute, 54 seconds. Buckler said he ran 10 consecutive laps of 1:53 to reel in the leader.
“I wanted to catch that sucker,” he said. “I was in the zone.”
Once in the lead, the No. 66 Porsche was never headed. The car’s margin of victory was nine laps.
“We pulled it off and it was really, really special,” Buckler said.
The TRG reunion was designed to commemorate the 2003 Rolex 24 victory and the team’s more than 20 years of racing that included three more Rolex 24 class wins. What started as a suggestion for a “small get-together” at Daytona to celebrate TRG’s epic victory has blossomed into a full-blown event.
The race weekend package includes meals, entertainment, meet-and-greets with drivers, golf cart shuttle service, track entry, parking and hot passes for pit lane.
“It includes everything,” Buckler said. “If you ever want to go to Daytona and do it right, this is the way to do it. This is a complete, five-star package for this awesome race that I have kind of given my life to.”
For more information about the TRG reunion, visit theracersgroup.com.