Miami: Chris Gleason preview

Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason Will be Part of the "Blast by the Bay" This Weekend in Miami MIAMI, Sept. 25 - Two drivers from opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon line, Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md., have ...

Johnstown, Pa.'s Chris Gleason Will be Part of the "Blast by the Bay" This Weekend in Miami

MIAMI, Sept. 25 - Two drivers from opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon line, Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md., have been doing a great job this year in the GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). They co-drive a team car to a Porsche that won this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the most prestigious sports car endurance race in North America.

On Saturday the pair will be in a very different setting than their homes in the Northeast, however, as the series travels to cosmopolitan Miami, Fla., for the Grand Prix Americas, a two-hour-and-45-minute ALMS race on a temporary circuit laid out on the streets of this city, the gateway to South America.

The event will be broadcast live from 4 p.m to 7 p.m. on the SPEED Channel.

Gleason and Bunting's race is part of a weekend that's being called the "Blast by the Bay." CART champ cars will take to the same course on Sunday. The MotoRock Trans-Am Tour and CART Toyota Atlantics also share the card.

If that sounds like a three-ring circus, it is. What's more, Gleason and Bunting's race is sort of a four-ring circus, as four classes of cars race simultaneously in ALMS events. There are awards for each class as well as for the overall race winners.

Gleason and Bunting compete in the GT class. It is the most popular class with 18 of the 36 total entries, and thus is the most competitive.

Their bright blue Porsche is sponsored by Gleason Financial, Monster Cable, mail2web.com, Carlsen Porsche, Adobe Road Winery and Rennlist.com.

This particular race is a cosmopolitan happening, since Miami's regular traffic is replaced by screaming race cars trying to find the fastest way around a very tight, 1.3-mile course. The layout, which includes portions of Biscayne Boulevard, Bayfront Park and other Miami streets, has 13 turns and it is the smallest course that the ALMS will use in 2003. It has concrete walls all around it, so there will be no room for errors. Due to construction the course's layout has been revised from the one used last year to further add to the challenge.

The races are the highlight of a virtual festival of hot cars in this hot city this weekend. A beauty pageant, a Fan Fest at Bayside Marketplace, a street festival in Miami's Coconut Grove section and an Elton John concert on Saturday night at nearby American Airlines Arena will add to the "happening."

"It's going to be a very tight, unforgiving course, but it will be fun to be part of such an international event," Gleason said before leaving for Florida. "This type of event showcases the revitalization of Miami as the Gateway to South America, and it's exciting to be part of it. In addition to our race being shown here in the States, it will also be broadcast in South America."

Qualifying for the GT class will be held from 1:50 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. on F riday.

After Saturday's race only one more event remains on the 2003 ALMS schedule: the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sport Park in Braselton, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 18.

For more information see www.americanlemans.com, www.theracersgroup.com, www.miamirace.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

Fans can place a vote for the series' most popular driver free of charge at www.americanlemans.com. Both Gleason and Bunting are up for that distinction.

-lm-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Chris Gleason , Marc Bunting