Gleason - Miami and Road Atlanta previews

Gleason to race in Miami this Saturday and at Road Atlanta next Saturday. JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Oct. 1 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa., plans to compete in two more professional auto races this year. Both are American Le Mans Series (ALMS) events;...

Gleason to race in Miami this Saturday and at Road Atlanta next Saturday.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Oct. 1 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa., plans to compete in two more professional auto races this year. Both are American Le Mans Series (ALMS) events; both are in October and both will be televised live on SPEED Channel.

The first is the Cadillac American Le Mans Challenge this Saturday on a 1.57-mile, 15-turn circuit laid out on the streets of Miami. The 2-hour, 45-minute contest will begin at 4 p.m. It is part of the Grand Prix of the Americas weekend, which includes a CART FedEx champ car race and a Trans-Am event.

The second race is the Petit Le Mans presented by Audi, which will be held next Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Road Atlanta Motorsports Center in Braselton, Ga. The distance is 1,000 mile or 10 hours, whichever comes first, although in all the previous runnings of this race the 1,000-mile mark was reached before the 10-hour time limit.

SPEED Channel will begin its coverage of the Petit Le Mans, which gets the green flag at 11:30 a.m., at 11 a.m. Eastern time next Saturday. This Saturday's coverage of the Miami race is scheduled to start promptly at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Gleason will be in the same car in both races: the Allegra Motorsports/Tradition BMW M3 #10 which he and his co-drivers put on the podium in a six-hour race at a Grand American Road Racing Assn. event at Watkins Glen, N.Y. in June.

Four classes of cars will be on the track simultaneously in both races. Gleason's BMW is in the Grand Touring (GT) class. The other classes are the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) 900 class; the LMP 675 class and the Grand Touring Sport (GTS) class.

With the oceanfront and the yachts of Miami, this weekend's race will mimic the flavor of Monte Carlo, as the course will include parts of Biscayne Boulevard and Bayfront Park. Although the ambiance will be impressive, the racers will face a very big challenge here. Since the race is being held on city streets, there is very little practice time scheduled to work on their cars' set-ups. Only two practice sessions are listed on the schedule (at 8 a.m. Friday and noon Friday, for a total of only two hours) followed by qualifying Friday at 3:40 p.m. and the race itself on Saturday afternoon.

The lack of practice and the tight turns and bumps that are typical of street courses could make it a virtual free-for-all. Although Gleason and his co-driver, Emil Assentato of Locust Valley, N.Y., would like more practice, the fact that their competition won't have much track time either may help to even out the playing field.

"Both the Miami race and the Petit Le Mans will favor the Porsches instead of our BMW, but it's racing, so who knows?" was the way the philosophical Gleason put it.

(In the ALMS GT manufacturer standings, Porsche has a whopping 205 points to Ferrari's 48, BMW's 27 and Spyker's 10.)

Another unknown is the weather. If a tropical storm or hurricane is in the area and the race can still be held, the favorites could go spinning off a slick track and into a tire wall at any time. Gleason has never been afraid of racing in the rain, and has a good finish in the most prestigious sports car endurance race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to his credit despite the fact that race was held in a torrential storm.

The following weekend's test at Road Atlanta will be held on an established, 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course. In a big contrast to Miami, practice opens on Thursday and four different practice sessions totaling five hours, not two, are scheduled before qualifying is held at 1 p.m. Friday. The race itself will start at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Gleason and Assentato will take turns driving the BMW at Miami this weekend. They'll be joined by a third driver at Road Atlanta. At press time that driver will probably be Nick Longhi of Nyack, N.Y., who co-drove with the pair when they finished third in class at Watkins Glen this summer.

Gleason drove with this team in two other races so far this year too. He was seventh in the GT class in this BMW at the National Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. on July 21, and sixth in class at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec in August. Both of those races were also ALMS events.

For more information on the races, see www.imsaracing.net. Internet users without access to SPEED Channel can also follow live radio web coverage at www.americanlemans.com.

Gleason is president of both Gleason Inc. and Gleason Financial Ltd. headquartered in Johnstown, Pa. For more information about him, see www.gleasonagency.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

-lm-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Emil Assentato , Nick Longhi , Chris Gleason