RJ Valentine, Chris Gleason and Ian James Team to Drive 2004 Grand-Am Series with TRG. Sonoma, CA -- February 19, 2004 -- Longtime sports car racers RJ Valentine, Chris Gleason and Ian James have teamed to campaign the 2004 Grand-Am Rolex series...
RJ Valentine, Chris Gleason and Ian James Team to Drive 2004 Grand-Am Series with TRG.
Sonoma, CA -- February 19, 2004 -- Longtime sports car racers RJ Valentine, Chris Gleason and Ian James have teamed to campaign the 2004 Grand-Am Rolex series in a GT-class Porsche 911 GT3 RS run by The Racer's Group. Among the three of them, they have more than 50 years of top-level racing experience, spanning all the major American race series, including Trans-Am, IMSA, WSC, ALMS, Formula Atlantic, Formula Vauxhall, British Touring Car and Grand-Am. They teamed together for the 2004 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and earned a ninth place finish in class. The drivers and the team turned in a stellar performance for most of the race, at one point leading the GT class and running consistently in the top five before contact with an errant Ferrari.
Valentine, of Braintree, Mass., ran select parts of the 2003 Grand-Am season with The Racer's Group, and had a high finish of 2nd position at the Grand Prix of Miami in February. When not racing in a TRG Porsche, he helped develop the #3 Cegwa Sport Toyota Daytona Prototype, piloting the car through its maiden season and collecting two podium finishes along the way. Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., had a strong season in 2003 running all of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with the team, as well as selected Grand-Am races. Among numerous top finishes, Gleason placed 3rd at the Daytona Finale in November.
Valentine, whose holding company MBA Group, based in Boston, oversees 22 businesses in all manner of industries. His premier business, F1 Boston, will be title sponsor of his racecar in 2004. A premier indoor and outdoor karting center located just outside of Boston, F1 is America's most advanced karting facility. Valentine uses the facility as a training tool, karting 1-2 days per week when he's in town to keep his reflexes in top shape for endurance sports car racing.
"My two favorite activities are riding my racing bicycle and driving my Rotax RM-1 kart," he said. "The bike keeps my cardiovascular fitness where it needs to be for the stress and aerobic workout of driving a race car, and driving an RM-1 allows me to hone my reactions. I work out religiously, and that's absolutely what I attribute my longevity to."
"When I race," said Valentine, "I use it as a business tool. I entertain my top clients, and in my experience there's no better venue than working with The Racer's Group. TRG knows how to execute so that my guests have the experience of a lifetime. Using racing as a marketing and public relations tool brings the MBA Group and my other businesses to a focal point. This year, for example, we've started a charter air service, F1 Air. My guests and I will use it as our own transportation for our races, but we've made it available as a charter service for other racers from other parts of the country. Adding private jet flights to TRG's race hospitality will put people over the edge from a business standpoint -- I expect to create a lot of long-term business relationships with these tools this year."
Chris Gleason, whose financial services company The Gleason Agency has been in business for three generations, will utilize his extensive international racing experience to tackle the Grand-Am series this year. In the 2003 season, Gleason had strong showings in all of his races, with multiple top ten finishes spanning two race series. His nearly 25 years of sports car racing experience will come in handy when he tackles the 2004 Grand-Am GT season, a series chock full of world-class racing drivers.
He said, "I'm excited about the season, because I think we put all the right pieces together for a really strong team. We're driving the #66 car, TRG's newest GT3 RS, signing Ian James up to drive with us bolsters our driving lineup in a big way, and Lars [Giersing, Crew Chief] and his merry band taking care of the car, well, they're first class. With Kevin and his team' s experience running top-level multi-car teams, we have all the pieces in place to do well, and now it's up to us to execute. Our whole strategy in running the Rolex 24 was to finish and get points, and despite Ian being punted off the track in the middle of the night, the crew got our car back together and we had a top ten finish. That's good -- we're in it for the long haul this season and getting points is a crucial consideration. We've got the discipline, and now we just need to execute properly."
About his co-drivers, he said, "RJ and I are good friends and have a lot in common. I enjoy driving with him -- he's experienced, sensible and drives within his own envelope. He brings lots of maturity and judgment to the team. Ian is an amazingly fast driver, and we'll benefit from the expertise he can share with us."
Ian James, who in addition to his duties as a TRG driver will drive a Lexus IS300 for the works Team Lexus effort, has several years of experience as a Lexus factory driver. In 2002, he helped Team Lexus capture the Grand-Am Cup championship, and hopes to extend his success to the GT class of the Rolex series.
"I'm privileged to be representing TRG in the Grand-Am championship," he said. "It's always a pleasure to drive with Chris and RJ, and hopefully we' re favorites for the Championship. Of course, the factory BMWs will be the biggest competition for us, but I feel that we're a match for anyone in the GT class because of the team's chemistry, preparation and history of strong Grand-Am results. My co-drivers give us a huge advantage in their experience, and I look forward to seeing how their businesses impact our racing this year as well -- they're both very savvy businessmen, and I think it'll be a big plus moving the team forward this year and into the future. I see racing with Chris and RJ as the first step in a long partnership.
Team owner Kevin Buckler said, "I absolutely agree with Chris and RJ that we 've assembled all the right ingredients for a run at the championship. I look forward to spending the season with these guys, and providing a good car and platform for their effort. Chris and RJ are great guys and good friends, and I've been particularly impressed in how their driving has developed over the last year. I know they both had a lot of experience long before they came to TRG, but these guys are both fast and will have a good solid shot at podiums every weekend. Adding a world-class driver like Ian to the team is just the icing in the cake."
The twelve race Grand-Am racing series continues on February 28, 2004, as round two takes the series to the Grand Prix of Miami, at Homestead Speedway. Coverage will be on Speed Channel.