Sebring, Fl (March 20, 2011)- Following a wild event at the 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, TRG took a valuable podium at the famed endurance classic, with drivers Duncan Ende, Alain Li, and Spencer Pumpelly finishing second in the GT-C category. Capping off a successful weekend, the #68 team entry of Peter Ludwig, Dion von Moltke, and Dr Jim Norman, would also take the checkered flag in fifth place.
Driving the no. 66 Racer’s Roast / Fox River Coffee TRG Porsche GT3 Cup car, Duncan Ende, from Los Angeles, CA was elected to qualify and start his vehicle for the team. Running a solid opening stint, an opportune yellow in the first 30 minutes of the race gave the team a perfect opportunity to come in for an early driver change. This gave Alain Li, from Hong Kong, a chance to run his first stint in the historic event, and he drove flawlessly.
Meanwhile, TRG’s no. 68 PR Newswire / parathyroid.com / Dietz & Watson / South African Airways Porsche GT3 Cup car was also off to an amazing start. Qualifying and starting, Dion von Moltke, driving under the South African flag, was the leading TRG vehicle throughout the early stages of the race. Impressing everyone with speed and consistency, the no. 68 was a definite dark horse to be noticed early on.
Handing the no. 68 controls over to Dr. Jim Norman during an opportune yellow, Norman was impressive in his American Le Mans Series professional debut. Having run in two preliminary races in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge just one day prior, Norman had shown tremendous experience and heads up driving. Peter Ludwig would take the reigns as the third driver and also showed tremendous pace and excellent racecraft from his early laps onward. Fighting hard as the race unfolded, all three drivers from the no. 68 drove with tremendous speed and maturity, which would eventually lead to a top-five placing.
Back to the no. 66, an endless see-saw battle among the top three cars would keep the drivers and team strategists on constant edge throughout the full 12 hours. Following a solid stint by Li, Spencer Pumpelly, residing in Atlanta, GA, took advantage of an opportune yellow to put his vehicle in a position to fight for the lead by the hour three mark. Driving an endless battle with the no. 77 Magnus Racing Porsche and no. 54 Black Swan Racing entry, Pumpelly would put in a solid stint to hand the car back to Ende with a strong chance to lead.
It was during Ende’s middle stint where the team really showed their potential. Now in the throws of the middle portion of the race, Duncan was the fastest GT-C car on class throughout the middle hours, not only taking the lead but growing it. With a nice cushion built up, the car was handed back to Li at around the five hour mark, and Li once again drove a steady and heads-up stint.
Pumpelly drove his middle stint on a mission, and was successfully chasing the leading no. 77 hard to regain a one lap down position. Following some clever pit strategy by Team Owner Kevin Buckler, the no. 66 nearly ran out of fuel twice under yellow as the team gambled on track position to place themselves back on the lead lap. Fortunately, the calls worked, and with just over four hours to go it was a two-car fight between the no. 66 and no. 54.
Unfortunately, the no. 66 was nearly a half lap behind the no. 54 and despite faster lap times and some epic driving by Pumpelly, a bizarre lack of yellows during the final four hours kept the team from being able to fight toe to toe and finished a proud second place in this epic endurance race.
All the while, the no. 68 was driving an incredible race with all 3 drivers putting in their best performances on the final stints. The team was running in a strong 3rd place position with only a few hours left and was withing striking distance at the end, finishing 5th in class.
For Ende, a hard fought race is something to be proud of. “Overall I’m satisfied with the weekend,” stated Ende. “We were definitely one of the strongest cars in GT-C, and second place points put us in a great championship position so we can’t be too disappointed. We definitely wanted to win, but there’s plenty more races left in the season.”
For Alain Li, a podium at Sebring in his first ALMS race is quite an accomplishment.
“This was definitely a successful week for me,” stated Li. “Everyone at the TRG organization was very organized and very professional, and it showed in every facet of the program. I’ve never driven at this event before, so to walk away with a second place is a great feeling.”
For Pumpelly, a second is definitely bittersweet.
“I really wanted to win this one bad,” stated Pumpelly. “We had the car to do it, the guys did a great job as always. Duncan and Alain drove fantastic stints, we just needed a little more luck at the end to get caught up to the 54. If we were just a little closer at the end, we would have had them. We can still walk away proud, we know we have the car and the team to win a lot more this year.”
For the no. 68, driver Dion von Moltke ran extremely strong in his Sebring debut.
“Overall I’m happy with my performance,” stated von Moltke. “We had a great car and I think the speed was there, we just got caught out on a few errors early on. We’ll rebound and look forward to more races this year.”
For Dr. Jim Norman, running at Sebring was an experience of a lifetime.
“It was definitely a crazy race,” stated Norman. “There are so many different classes and types of cars out there, you’re always driving with your guard up. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget, and I look forward to more events with TRG.”
For Peter Ludwig, a frustrating couple of mistakes masked the true potential.
“We had the speed to really do some great things this weekend,” stated Ludwig. “I know we could have had a better finish, we definitely had the speed. Jim and Dion both did their part and it was a great team effort, I look forward to more races this year.”
For Team Owner Kevin Buckler, to finally get a podium at the track which has eluded him is a good feeling.
“We definitely wanted the win this weekend. We would have made history with consecutive GT victories at Petit Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring successively,” stated Buckler. “At the same time to finish with two cars in the top five at the Sebring 12 hours is something we can look proudly at as a team this weekend. Our no. 66 boys did an awesome job. Alain was super smooth, consistent, and rock steady all week–never putting a single wheel wrong. That was his job and he delivered perfectly, on top of simply being a truly excellent teammate out of the car as well. Spencer gave it his all as expected, and if we’d had a yellow at the end I think Spencer could have done it. He had the speed and the fire. Duncan is the one who I think really broke through this weekend. In the race, he was faster than most anyone, and he simply drove an awesome double stint at the end, unbelievable–his best ever. I was very proud. We really showed ourselves as the car to beat halfway through, and it was very satisfying to see Duncan being the guy to show it, as we’ve had a lot of years together watching him develop. The 68 guys should be super super proud. Dion did an great job in qualifying and throughout the entire race. He was a good team leader and I love the fact that we will be able to work together for the entire season. He is a true pro and we are going to win races. Dr. Jim did a great job getting up to speed and driving the wheels off the car in the likes of some of the biggest names in the sport. He did everything that was asked for this weekend as a professional driver. It was awesome. Peter showed brilliant speed as always and impressed the heck out of all of us. I truly think he is one of the most underrated drivers in the sport as he is fast and fit and can match pace with just about anyone and he rarely makes a mistake. I think with a little better luck it could have been an even better day. I’m so proud of all of the guys here at this organization, and the rest of the season’s only going to get stronger.”
TRG’s next American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron event will be at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, taking place on Saturday, April 16.