TRG has pulled its Porsche 911 GT3 R from the remainder of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season due to what team principal Kevin Buckler states as tire issues stemming from January’s rain-affected Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The GT Daytona class car, which Buckler said was registered for the season, will not be at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, after the team’s 10th place class finish in Daytona, which Buckler said was hampered by punctures during the race’s changing track conditions overnight.
“I’m not happy with the situation over there right now,” Buckler told Sportscar365. “For three years in a row we really got screwed on this rain tire situation with the tire incapable of doing its job but this year it really bit many teams in GTD hard.
“In 2015, we had a major failure in the wet/drying conditions and it destroyed the front of our car. In 2016, exactly the same thing happened again and those tires blew up on the banking and sawed the car apart and caused one of my drivers to leave.
“But this year it was just too much. It destroyed our race and a good part of our program. We finished 13 laps [down], ten of them were because the four flats and the rest from the mystery inconstancies.
“Do I want to build a several million [dollar] program, buy equipment, hire the best guys and have our whole world pivot around tires that are incapable of the task at hand?”
Buckler said the Daytona situation “mangled” his driver situation, although the team hadn’t yet announced a full-season Silver/Bronze driver alongside Porsche factory ace Wolf Henzler, who had been allocated to TRG’s program.
According to IMSA sources, the car had not been registered as a “Premium” full-season entrant.
Henzler was joined by Jan Heylen, Tim Pappas, Mike Hedlund and Santiago Creel in Daytona.
“It’s a really big blow because I had drivers that were set for North American Endurance Cup, and sponsorship and of course a huge group at Daytona,” Buckler said.
“It’s been too much to take. I’m not coming back until it’s resolved.”
Continental Tire had responded following January’s season-opener, issuing a bulletin to GTD teams, outlining the issues selected teams encountered during the overnight hours of the race and vowing to develop an all-new GTD rain tire in time for next year’s event.
According to Continental’s Travis Roffler, additional measures have been put into place for the remainder of the season, including rolling out with an updated GTD wet tire at Sebring that has “robust changes” to the upper shoulder.
Additionally, as a good-will gesture, Roffler said they will take back and replace all unused GTD wet tires in teams’ inventory free of charge, while offering a credit for two sets of tires at Sebring for each GTD team that competed at Daytona.
“Were we ecstatic with the tire we brought to Daytona? No. Are we prepared to do everything and anything in our power to make it better? Absolutely,” Roffler told Sportscar365.
“The safety of the teams and drivers are always at the forefront of our mind. There’s nothing more than these teams trusting their equipment and drivers to our product.
“We do not take that responsibility lightly at all, and I take offense to anybody who thinks that we do, and that the product we’re putting out there is anything but the best effort we put forward for the conditions and [series-mandated] cost-containment measures.”
Roffler noted the GTD class-winning Alegra Motorsports Porsche, an identical car to TRG’s, did not encounter any tire issues in the race, which is understood to have been attributed to the team running to the recommended tire pressures.
Continental is contracted by IMSA to produce a single-specification dry and wet tire for each class, with conditions at Daytona arguably would have favoring an intermediate option, which is not permitted in the rules.
“We’re going to continue to test and work with IMSA to make sure we have tires that are the most competitive they can be within the cost-containment rules to continue the series to be a top-level road racing series that’s financially sustainable,” Roffler added.
Buckler, meanwhile, said he plans to continue to field a Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, as the team has funded full-season drivers confirmed for the year.