This will be TRG's record 63rd entry for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Image Credit Grand-Am
TRG Announces Second Entry for 2011 Rolex 24
Three-time Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona winners TRG announced it’s their second entry for the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season opener. The TRG/Black Swan/GMG Porsche 997 will take the green flag on January 29th for the 49th Rolex 24 at Daytona with a strong line-up of American and European drivers.
The brand new 2011 Porsche will be driven by American Le Mans Series GTC class champions Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Fellow ALMS GTC competitors James Sofronas and Bret Curtis join the team as well as a yet to be announced Porsche Factory Driver.
Pappas and Bleekemolen combined to win four races in the ALMS GTC class and went on win the 2010 series title in the Black Swan Racing (BSR) Porsche. Sofronas and Curtis competed in the ALMS as well as select SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge races in 2010 with Sofronas' GMG racing team. The foursome, and the addition of a Porsche hot shoe, will be one of the GT teams to be reckoned with come the end of January.
Pappas is making a strategic season decision by combining forces with TRG and GMG for the Rolex 24.
"Black Swan is focused on defending its championship title in the American Le Mans Series and thus a partnership with my friends at GMG and TRG made a lot of sense to me," Pappas said. "We can take a run at the 24 without losing our momentum elsewhere. We have a great driver line-up and my expectations are very high; of course we want to win, but I haven't been a part of Grand-Am in many years so it's difficult to gauge the competition. I have always wanted to compete in this prestigious endurance race, but at the same time I wanted to wait until a winning opportunity came along; this program is the right fit. With the combined experience of TRG, BSR and GMG, I think we can fight for a win. Daytona is a special place; I have been on the podium there in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and I would certainly like to add a Rolex class victory to my resume." "In fact, the first time I ever drove at Daytona, or in any pro-racing environment was in a test with TRG back in 2000 at Daytona," Pappas added. "Paul Newman was there at the same time testing with another team - that's a pretty cool intro to the legendary driver and race track. I want to add my name to the list of GT winners!"
Sofronas is melding his GMG team with TRG and Black Swan Racing for the grueling Daytona 24 Hour.
"My expectations, like most teams running this race, are to win, or at least put us in contention to win," Sofronas said. "We will have a new car with PMNA (Porsche Motorsport North America) right there supporting us and some excellent drivers behind the wheel, not to mention a strong infrastructure with TRG. My goal is to do what I was hired to do - drive the car with the strategy and experience that we will have and be there at the end. I would like to expand my experience in the 24 as I have only done it once before in 2009. That year, despite many setbacks, we never gave up and ended up finishing seventh. I remember my third stint early Sunday morning that started in pitch black darkness around 5:30 a.m. with the sun coming up an hour later and it was so peaceful as the sunshine started to blanket the track. I think I ran five laps with no one around me. I can't wait to do it again! There is a ton of experience between GMG, BSR and TRG, so I thought it would be great to use the talents of all three teams to put forth this effort. GMG will run this race in the future, but we thought it best to go this route as TRG has a lot of experience in this race and BSR also puts together a great team. I have to thank Bret Curtis, a great client of GMG's as well as a great friend, as he is the reason I am driving in this race for 2011."
Curtis has one goal in mind at Daytona, winning.
"Knowing that we are running with a driver line-up that includes a two time Super Cup champion and current ALMS GTC champion in Jeroen Bleekemolen, a World Challenge winning driver in James Sofronas, a Porsche factory driver, as well as the other ALMS GTC champion Tim Pappas makes me feel pretty confident about our chances," Curtis said. "From the stand point of driver capabilities and experience, we have it. This driver line-up, coupled with the very capable and strong team support set up we have, will be very exciting. Running at the Daytona 24 is a lifelong dream of mine. Some of my favorite drivers like Ickx, Gurney, Andretti, Elford, Merzario, etc., have all run the 24 and the history is amazing. Having this chance to run, and with our driver line-up and team is an incredible opportunity for me. I plan to take advantage of it!"
This is the second TRG entry to date for the 2011 Daytona classic, the first being the Racing for Research Porsche with Kenny Wallace, Ron Yarab, Daniel Graeff and Pierre Bourque. This is a record 63rd entry in the Rolex 24 for TRG. The team that has traditionally prepared as many as eight cars for the race has several more announcements pending.
Team owner Kevin Buckler started preparing for the 2011 race as soon as the checkered flag dropped on the 2010 event. As a two time winning driver in 2002 and 2003, winning the race overall in '03, as well as finishing one-two in '09, Buckler knows the secret to success at Daytona is proper preparation in every area.
"We are already well into the preparations for the 2011 Rolex 24," Buckler said. "The line-up of Pappas, Bleekemolen, Sofronas, Curtis and strong fifth is one that can definitely contend for the win. We are honored that these guys decided to combine their efforts with ours for the Rolex 24. Tim, James and Bret could have put their own cars on the track, but decided to bring their driving talent and experience to our team and really make a strong run at winning the GT class. It only makes sense as we are very powerful when properly aligned. We offer a unique approach of being able to offer many benefits of aligning with TRG as well as allowing an existing team to maintain their identity and learn for the future throughout experience at Daytona. I am really looking forward to running this race as these guys are my racing friends and we are all on the same page with a common goal - winning. This is just the first of many cool announcements to come from TRG regarding the Rolex 24."
(Reposted from a Grand Am PR release, PETALUMA, Calif. - by Dicken Wear)