Watkins Glen: Gleason Saturday qualifying notes

Gleason qualifies eighth in GT class Saturday for Sunday's Six Hours of the Glen. WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., June 22 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa., qualified eighth in the GT class Saturday afternoon at Watkins Glen International for Sunday's Six...

Gleason qualifies eighth in GT class Saturday for Sunday's Six Hours of the Glen.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., June 22 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa., qualified eighth in the GT class Saturday afternoon at Watkins Glen International for Sunday's Six Hours of the Glen Grand Am Rolex Series race.

Behind the wheel of the Alegra Motorsports/901 Shop BMW M3 #10, it only took Gleason 1:56.832 seconds to make it around the 3.4-mile, 15-turn long road course here, which calculates to be at an average speed of 104.766 mph.

His teammates for tomorrow's race are Emil Assentato of Locust Valley, N.Y. and Nick Longhi of Nyack, N.Y.

The race, which will be broadcast from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 29 on Speed Channel, is part of the Sports Car Grand Prix.

The GTS, GT and AGT classes qualified during the same 15-minute session Saturday afternoon. Gleason was 17th overall in that combined group. When the SRP and SRP II cars were added to the mix a little later, he ended up 26th overall in the starting line-up for tomorrow's race, which will start at 11 a.m.

Gleason was especially pleased with the way things went Saturday because the team is steadily progressing.

"This weekend started off with no time due to the brake problem. The second session we were sorting out the car; everybody was running two minutes. The third session this morning we made some changes and got down to 1:58s and then in qualifying we ran a 1:56, so we're making progress," Gleason said.

"The key to tomorrow's race is obviously to stay out of trouble, runs 58s and 59s all day, have clean pit stops and be there at the end," he noted.

"I thought we'd qualify pretty much in the middle of the field," Gleason added. "But the key is to get a good-handling car that will go the distance, and I think we'll have a good car tomorrow. Joe Stimola is helping us with our set-up and he's terrific with chassis set-up and shocks. With his help it's really working well."

Gleason said there was no sign of the earlier brake problem during qualifying. He also said his radio system was working well despite problems he'd had with it in the past.

The driver who qualifies the car must start the race. The driver rotation hasn't been determined yet, but Gleason said he thinks Longhi will be second and Assentato third.

"Emil and I raced together two years ago and finished fourth in class at Road America," Gleason noted. "I've never raced with Nick before but he has a good reputation. Our driver line-up is solid; there's no weakness there."

Gleason loves the track. "Watkins Glen is a classic race course," he said. "It has lots of grade changes and both fast and slow turns. It really is one of the truly classic race courses in the world."

The temperature has been in the 80s at the Glen all weekend so far, with a chance of thunderstorms each afternoon. If a storm should blow up, Gleason will handle it in stride.

"Rain doesn't bother me at all, especially after Le Mans last year, when it poured," he said.

"Rain can change the whole complexion of the race, but it doesn't bother me as long as I can see.

"We'll just hope for the best and see what happens," he concluded.

-lm-

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Series GRANDAM