Gleason and Hand's BMW Gets as High as Fourth Before Trouble Strikes Late in Sunday's KONI Challenge Season Finale at VIR ALTON, Va., Oct. 4 - The 2009 KONI Challenge season, which consisted of 11 very competitive races from January through ...
Gleason and Hand's BMW Gets as High as Fourth Before Trouble Strikes Late in Sunday's KONI Challenge Season Finale at VIR
ALTON, Va., Oct. 4 - The 2009 KONI Challenge season, which consisted of 11 very competitive races from January through October in the United States and Canada, ended up being about 40 minutes too short for Turner Motorsport co-drivers Chris Gleason and Joey Hand.
The pair's BMW M3 Coupe, which is sponsored in part by Gleason Financial, was fourth around both the two-hour and three-hour mark in the four-hour Bosch Engineering Octoberfest season finale Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway. Unfortunately it suffered a mechanical problem just 40 minutes shy of the checkered flag while Hand was running sixth, and it was forced to retire. Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., and Hand, of Sacramento, Calif., ended up finishing 21st in GS in the 49-car event.
Gleason qualified 22nd and took the green flag in that position. He got a great start and passed two cars on the first of the car's 90 trips around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course near the Virginia/North Carolina border. He was able to hold off Keith Carroll's No. 79 BMW until lap seven, and spent a good portion of his stint running between Carroll and the No. 83 Porsche of Scott Russell.
Russell finally got around him 40 minutes into the race on lap 19. Gleason spent the next part of his stint trying to repass Russell while holding off Jason Workman. He stayed out on the track during the first full-course yellow, which flew from laps 23 through 25 in order to retrieve Chip Herr's overheated Volkswagen Jetta in Turn 8. That savvy pit strategy helped, as Gleason was up to sixth with 53 minutes elapsed.
The restart went smoothly on lap 25, but one of the event's eventual winners, James Gue, passed him for sixth on lap 26 with an hour and 38 minutes gone. He pitted under green with 28 laps and an hour and five minutes gone in order to turn the car over to Hand.
That dropped the entry back to 22nd, but Hand started to chip away at the field. He moved up to 15th on lap 48 with an hour and 47 minutes gone by passing Scott Turner's Ford Mustang GT. He broke into the top 10 a minute before the two-hour mark with 53 laps in the books. Other cars pitted at that time, and on lap 55 Hand passed his sister car that Bill Auberlen was driving to get fifth place.
The fourth-place driver at that point, Todd Lamb, then pitted, which put Hand in fourth place four minutes after the midway point with 56 laps completed. Hand then pitted under green, but the Turner Motorsport crew got him back on the track quickly. He remained on the lead lap and he set the entry's fastest lap of the race shortly thereafter when he ran a 2:04.215 for an average speed of 94.771 miles per hour on lap 63 while he was trying to climb back up from 11th after the stop.
Guy Cosmo pitted on lap 70 to give Hand eighth place back, and he then concentrated on trying to pass Ryan Eversley. He got seventh on lap 77 with 2 hours and 48 minutes in the books when Eric Foss dropped from fifth to ninth, and he got sixth two minutes later when he finally got around Eversley. Charles Espenlaub then dropped from fifth to seventh, which vaulted Hand into fourth place again one minute before the three-hour mark.
Things were looking great for the Turner Motorsport team with just 60 minutes remaining, because its cars were third (Bill Auberlen) and fourth (Hand) at that point. The driver who went on to earn the series' driver championship, Ken Wilden, got between them about four minutes later on lap 84. Hand then slipped from fourth to seventh, but he was back in sixth on lap 87 with three hours and 10 minutes gone when the second full-course yellow flew so a wrecker could retrieve the stalled Honda Civic of Jamie Holtom.
Hand was only 4.888 seconds behind the leader, Gue, when the race restarted with 90 laps complete. Unfortunately he was issued a stop-and-go penalty for allegedly jumping the restart, and when he brought the car down pit lane to serve the penalty it lost oil pressure and wasn't able to finish the 108-lap event.
This race isn't going to be televised, but more information, including the official point standings, will be available on the Internet at grand-am.com. Other Internet sites of interest include turnermotorsport.com, konisportscarchallenge.com, gleasoninc.com and speedtv.com.
Gleason's post-race quote follows: "We didn't have the weekend we wanted, but it was still a very good season. What happened today was that a line came off the oil pump, which resulted in an engine failure.
"We had a little dispute with the officials before the race because at first they said one driver couldn't drive over three hours in a four-hour race, but then they clarified the rule and said that one driver couldn't drive more than three consecutive hours in a four-hour race, which is a different story.
"So we were executing our strategy. It wasn't important where we started so we used qualifying as a practice session for our race set-up, with a full tank of gas and everything.
"We had trouble all weekend getting the car to stick. It was sliding a lot. The team worked hard and tried everything; springs, shocks, tires, swaybars, just everything, but we never got it where we wanted it.
"We were dealing with it, but right at a restart the problem occurred. It was a sad ending to a wonderful year. I want to thank Joey and Will and everyone on the team for all their hard work. We had four podiums, including a win, and that's a good year in anyone's book.
"Bill Auberlen and Matt Bell were in the top five today and Will Turner and Paul Dalla Lana finished second in ST, so that was good for the team.
"We're looking forward to next year. Turner is building some new cars; one is built already, and we'll be testing them in November. They'll have some exciting plans to announce soon. There are a lot of exciting things planned for the team for next year.
"We'll take a little time off, but before you know it, it will be the third of January and time for the test at Daytona. So we'll be busy. Joey and I will stay together in 2010, and we're looking forward to the new season!"
-credit: restart communications