Road Atlanta II: Gleason pre-race notes

Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason wraps up 2003 season Saturday with Petit Le Mans on SPEED Channel BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 16 - Chris Gleason hopes his two experiences in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France will help him in the shorter Petit Le Mans at...

Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason wraps up 2003 season Saturday with Petit Le Mans on SPEED Channel

BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 16 - Chris Gleason hopes his two experiences in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France will help him in the shorter Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Park here Saturday as the Johnstown, Pa.-based driver and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) wrap up their 2003 seasons.

The distance for Saturday's Petit Le Mans is 10,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first. That will depend on yellow and red flags and weather. That's not quite half as long as the French race, but it will be grueling nonetheless.

Gleason has many years of experience in many different forms of racing, but his two appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans are special memories. He finished sixth in the GT2 class at Le Mans in 1997 and fourth in the LMP 675 class there in 2001.

He's also driven in many endurance races all over the United States, and has previous success here at Road Atlanta.

Since Saturday's race is so long, Gleason and his regular co-driver, Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md., will be joined by a third driver for this race: Pierre Ehret of Tengessee, Germany, who usually drives the #67 Racer's Group Porsche. Together the trio will share the beautiful bright blue Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3 RS #68 on Saturday. The car is sponsored by Gleason Financial, The Racer's Group, Monster Cable, mail2web.com, Crescent City Porsche, Adobe Road Winery, Rennlist.com and Wine Country Motorsports.

"The key is to just keep going," Gleason said. "There are always problems that develop in an endurance sports car race, but if you can just keep a good, steady pace and avoid crashes, spins and mechanical problems, you end up with a good result. That's not as easy as it sounds because the course is challenging and running a high-performance race car for that long at those speeds is very demanding on the equipment. But I have a good team, good co-drivers and a good car, so we'll all just give it our best and see what happens."

Gleason works hard to stay in top physical shape in order to compete in professional auto racing. He turned 60 on Monday. A top executive of the insurance industry as president of the Gleason Group, he is also a member of the Amtrack Reform Council which is trying to revamp America's passenger railroad system.

Gleason is already at Road Atlanta participating in pre-race practice. Qualifying for his class, GT, will be held at 2:20 p.m. Friday. The class is the most popular of the four that compete simultaneously in the race, with a full half of the 38 entries.

Bunting had a little off-track excursion in practice on Thursday afternoon which damaged the bottom of the car, but The Racer's Group pit crew quickly sprang into action to make repairs.

"Our pit crew, led by our crew chief, Lars Giersing, really does a great job," Gleason noted. "Maybe if we get our bad luck over with in practice, the race will go smoothly for us on Saturday."

Kevin Buckler, who owns The Racer's Group and also competes in another Porsche that is painted the same color as the one Gleason drives, the #66, is optimistic about Gleason, Bunting and Ehret's chances Saturday as they tackle the challenging 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course.

"I'm extremely excited about Chris and all the boys in car #68," said Buckler, who won the overall Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February. "The car/team/driver lineup has been magical; they've gotten faster and faster and the last few races especially, Chris's driving has really shined. His lap times and consistency have matched many of the top pros in the series.

"I've been very proud to have him as part of the team," added Buckler, of Sonoma, Calif. "The combination of he, Marc Bunting and Pierre Ehret in #68 for Petit Le Mans should be potent."

The race will get the green flag at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday.

The event will be covered live and extensively on the SPEED Channel. Pre-race coverage starts at 11 a.m. and the start of the race will be covered from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The broadcasters take a break and then come back on from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., and then cover the finish from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.

During the pauses in the live TV coverage fans can follow the event online at www.americanlemans.com, as the American Le Mans Series Radio Web will cover all the action non-stop. Practice results and pit notes will be posted on that site as quickly as possible too.

Highlights of the event will be covered overseas on Eurosport at 20:00 Central European Time on Oct. 26.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Kevin Buckler , Pierre Ehret , Chris Gleason , Marc Bunting