BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 18 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his two co-drivers, Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md. and Pierre Ehret of Tengessee, Germany, almost made it to the finish of Saturday's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Park, but...
BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 18 - Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and his two co-drivers, Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md. and Pierre Ehret of Tengessee, Germany, almost made it to the finish of Saturday's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Park, but near the end the engine let go in their Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3 RS #68.
It was the first mechanical failure for this particular car all year.
Unofficially they were credited with a 13th-place finish in the GT class and 28th overall in the 10-hour, 1,000-mile race, which was the season finale for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
Gleason said he got a little bit of a warning before the engine failed.
"Right before it happened I noticed that the engine tone or note changed a lit tle bit," he said. "I went through the chicane in second gear and noticed that it didn't pull very well. Then it just let go and I rolled it off the course off turn 12, near the start/finish line. It was the first mechanical failure we've had all year. I think we were back to 11th place or so when it happened.
"I was lucky the wheels didn't lock up, because that's a very fast part of the course," he added. "You're going 120 mph or something like that there. But I just pushed the clutch in and glided to a stop."
Gleason qualified ninth in class, started the race, and drove for the first hour.
"I had a pretty good first shift there," he said. "I was pretty quick. Then we had a full-course yellow. I was trying to keep my tires hot under the yellow. I used the whole track to do that, but unfortunately I picked up a lot of debris. On the restart the car didn't handle very well, and it took me six, seven or eight laps to clean the tires off again.
"I was seventh or eighth when I came in, and then Pierre got in. He said he got tapped in the esses, and he backed into the wall and damaged the rear end. We lost 15 or 16 laps to fix things, but our crew chief, Lars Giersing, and his merry band did a great job as usual. The car really was terrific."
Ehret eventually returned to the fray and pitted again at 2:34 p.m., when Bunting took over. He drove until Gleason got in again at 5:06 p.m., and the engine let go at 6:08 p.m.
"After the accident we were back to 15th or 16th, and Marc got in and did a double stint. He did a great job, and we were making our way back up the standings," Gleason noted. "I was probably halfway through my next shift and up to 11th place when the engine went.
"It wasn't a great way to end the season, but we had a terrific crew and Marc and I enjoyed this year running in the ALMS," Gleason added. "We made great friends, and I'm kind of sad the season is over. But Kevin [Buckler, the team owner] wants us to do the Grand Am Finale at Daytona in two weeks, and we'll probably do that. I'm looking forward to driving at Daytona again, and talking to people and seeing what's going on in that series too."
The Grand Am Rolex Series race at Daytona will be held on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Most of Saturday's ALMS race was covered live on SPEED. J.J. Lehto and Johnny Herbert dominated the event, winning it handily in their ADT Champion Racing Audi R8.
Gleason's 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.
For more information see www.gleasonagency.com, www.theracersgroup.com, www.americanlemans.com and www.restartcommunications.com.