Sebring, Fl (March 21, 2010)- Following a solid week of practice and preparation, TRG was struck by a tiny mechanical gremlin that nearly sidelined the team for this epic race. TRG managed to keep the fight going through the 58th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring to bring home a solid sixth place finish, after having a shock absorber break only 45 minutes into the race. Driving in the No 63 Future Electronics/Freescale Semiconductor/TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, pilots Henri Richard, Duncan Ende, and Andy Lally exercised patience and heads-up driving to bring the car home in one solid piece.
Qualifying in seventh place, driver Henri Richard kept the car on its paces throughout the first hour of the race, however by 30 minutes in he radioed in with a notable problem on the read end of the car. “The back end of the car started to feel very unstable through the middle of my stint,” stated Richard. “At first I thought we had a flat tire, but after a few turns I realized it was something else in the back of the car, and just had to drive through it. To drive at a track this fast and bumpy with a problem like that took a lot of patience and precision.”
Not wanting to lose valuable track positioning by taking an extended pit stop to diagnose the problem, the team soldiered on through much of the first half of the race, fighting hard with the eventual GTC class-winning car no. 81.
However, just short of halfway in to the race, driver Andy Lally radioed in that something was further amiss in the back-end. It was discovered that the left-rear sub frame had broken. Pulling the car back in to the garage, the team discovered that the broken and frozen shock absorber likely led to the whole situation.
For Andy Lally, it was an odd problem that is typical of Sebring. “The moment I got in the car I thought we had a problem with the left rear shock,” stated Lally. “You had to be very careful turning in to the bumpier corners, the left rear just never quite settled. When we took the shock out of the car, it seemed like it was almost frozen, which led to the left rear getting beaten to the point that the sub-frame broke.”
With the car repaired in under an hour, the team brought the car back out on track for a trouble-free second half of the race. Out of contention for the win, the team simply kept to a solid game plan, gaining positions by attrition and smart driving.
For Sebring debutante Duncan Ende, being able to drive a solid number of stints throughout the day was victory in itself. “This was definitely a race I’ll remember,” stated Ende. “On my first stint we were trying an out-of-the-box tire strategy that made the car really tricky to drive. By time we’d fixed the car and I got back out again, it was already night time. Doing a double-stint at night was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in a while!”
For Henri Richard, fighting hard and solid teamwork was an accomplishment he is proud of. “The teamwork and effort from this team was first class all week,” stated the Frenchman, also making his debut. “We had a good car and a trouble free week up until the race started. To fix the car so quickly was a great testament to the team’s desire to get us out as quickly as possible, as everyone wanted a strong finish. This is a great group.”
For Team Owner Kevin Buckler, yet another Sebring heartbreak shouldn’t overshadow a strong message from the team. “Being back at Sebring and running the 12 hours with my friends was great but we sure didn’t deserve this little gremlin,” stated Buckler. “To have a problem like we had was extremely frustrating for everyone as the guys were stellar all week, and they were as meticulous as ever to get the car ready for action. Henri had a great opening stint, and to have felt the shock fail like that, and had the mindset to adjust and drive through it is a credit to his ability and heads-up driving. Duncan did a fantastic job all week and then persevered with a difficult car during the race. It was great to have him back with TRG. Andy did his solid job as always, and it would have been awesome to see how the race would have unfolded with the 81. To have a shock freeze up like that was something none of us had seen before, and it’s too bad it had to ruin our day. The good thing from this weekend, however, was that we realized we’re here, and we can win. We had one of the fastest cars all week and the program was sound. Our team has a ton of experience at these types of difficult events and we were the only team in our class not to have an incident or a penalty. Just the shock….These things happen and now we know just how good our GTC program can be.”
TRG will return to the American Le Mans Series on April 17 at the historic Grand Prix of Long Beach.