Although the team doesn’t have its full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship plans finalized yet, TRG-AMR appears to be moving towards a greater Mexican-focused business strategy for the racing portion of its business.
It came as a surprise to many when the email arrived on Christmas Eve announcing Force India Formula 1 star Sergio Perez and TRG-AMR team principal Kevin Buckler as partners, let alone with the fact that Perez wouldn’t be driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
But the greater backstory of the Perez-Buckler dynamic – strange as the link-up might seem on the surface – goes back more than a decade when Buckler was in the top class of his sport at the time, the Daytona Prototype class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series.
“The business side of this is working with Mr. (Antonio) Perez, Sergio and Antonio’s father and Sergio himself, who will help in any way they can,” Buckler told Sportscar365.
“We’re trying to put together a season deal around these guys, around promoting Mexico, Mexican businesses and American businesses doing business in Mexico. This could be a great B2B thing.
“In 2005, I had helped out Carlos Slim (of Telmex) and his team putting Jimmy Morales in our DP. And that helped open up that door.
“We’ve been talking about this since then, Carlos and I, about putting together an all-Mexico car, given all the different interests and helping fund it. This is what we’re trying to do here.”
The Mexican involvement with TRG-AMR comes at a time when Mexico’s own interest in motorsport is growing, thanks in large part to Sergio Perez’s F1 success and the relaunch of the renovated Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City.
Perez enjoyed his best year yet in five seasons, scoring a podium for Force India at the Russian Grand Prix and finishing ninth in the championship standings, ahead of highly rated teammate and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg.
Buckler said Sergio will attend the Rolex 24 itself, in support of his brother Antonio Perez and the three planned co-drivers, Ricardo Perez (no relation), Santiago Creel and Lars Viljoen in the No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.
Antonio Perez Sr., Sergio and Antonio’s father, compared what TRG-AMR is trying to do with the Perez brothers to Mexico’s most iconic racing brothers, the late Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez.
“If you remember many years ago, the Rodriguez brothers from Mexico, they were running Daytona and running Formula 1,” Perez Sr. told Sportscar365.
“I think it’s a similar story now with ‘Tonio running Daytona and Sergio running Formula 1. It’s a big opportunity for Mexico and the Perez brothers working together with Kevin.
“The relationship between Checo and Tonio is so incredible. So he’s coming from Europe to United States, to support him in the race.”
The Mexican interest in North American sports car racing waned a bit, following the withdrawal of Fernandez Racing at the end of 2009.
Memo Rojas has remained active with Chip Ganassi Racing and most recently the DeltaWing team, but is yet to confirm his full-season plans for 2016.
Luis Diaz has been in-and-out of the sport, with his last full-time drive occurring in 2014 with 8Star Motorsports in the PC class.
Arguably the most consistent sports car supporter from Mexico the last few years has been Ricardo Gonzalez, a FIA WEC LMP2 veteran who’s consistently starred there as one of the series’ top gentlemen drivers.
A Mexican team presence in a U.S.-based championship, though, has been lacking. It seems it’s Buckler who’s trying to help resuscitate it, while also trying to enhance his core business.
“When I stepped out of the car in 2004, honestly, my mission was if I’m not driving then I’m taking all my competitive instincts and juices toward building this company,” Buckler said.
“We started adding people in non-competition, with a full-time design guy, a full-time graphics guy and three full-time guys in sales and marketing. It’s rewarded us well.
“I want to be the best team here in things other than competition. I want to create partnerships and sponsorships that really work. Hopefully we can be a shining star, or the poster child of how that should be.”
The Mexico involvement on the IMSA side, as Buckler is working towards a full-season single car entry in GTD with Antonio Perez the likely driver, comes amidst Buckler’s other business ventures and racing programs he’s planning for 2016.
Buckler looks set to run one Aston Martin Vantage in the Pirelli World Challenge GTA class, at least two Aston Martin Vantage GT4s in GTS, and possibly one additional GTS car for the new Sprint-X races.
Meanwhile Buckler isn’t limited to just Aston Martin this year, noting he has bought four new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports to run in a West Coast Pirelli Cup series.
A new winery is also on the docket, with Buckler noting he’s building a new facility in Petaluma.
It all is adding up for another busy 2016 for Buckler and TRG, a full 20 years following his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut as a driver and 19 years after TRG the team was launched.