Fred Schrader and Kevin Buckler - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Among the competitors were the "Winery Pals," The Racers Group and Adobe Road Winery owner Kevin Buckler, driving with car owner and fellow vintner Fred Schrader (Schrader Cellars) using the Schrader Racing with Barwell label.
Their 2011 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 started ninth overall in the contest and finished third in class in treacherous conditions.
This was Schrader's first visit to The Sarthe circuit of nearly 8.5 miles and Buckler's return after winning in 2002 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
"It was pretty hairy out there," Schrader explained after enjoying the podium celebration. "I knew if I played it smart, kept pace and turned the car over in one piece to Bucky, we would have a helluva chance. That start in the rain is something I'll never forget."
While Schrader started the race, it was up to Buckler to bring the car home as highly placed as he could. There was about a two-minute gap to the GT4 leader when Buckler took over and he began to reel in his competition. On the high-speed Mulsanne Corner, seeing his chance, Buckler faked inside and moved outside to make the pass.
"I drove as hard as I could," he said. "It was raining and we were going fast. I was sideways on all the slick corners during that last lap and drove as deep as I could go. I really wanted to get that guy so I could send Fred and I home with some of the same amazing memories as I've had before from this place."
Mission accomplished, the duo were last seen--no surprise--drinking wine during the 24-hour race; after all, their adventure was already signed, sealed and delivered.
The overall winner of the short race was Villois Racing’s Vantage GT2 as drivers Luca Filippi and Brian Lavio passed the chequered flag more than a minute ahead of their closest rival after 10 action-packed laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe. A V-12 powered DBR9--making a return to the scene of its famous back-to-back GT1 class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008--finished in second position after a stunning recovery drive from Marco Seefried.