Leighton Reese Performance Group Pontiac GXP.R to continue defense of Grand-Am titles in 2009 Millville, New Jersey (May 1, 2009): Despite the recent General Motors announcement that the Pontiac brand will be phased out in 2010 Leighton Reese...
Leighton Reese Performance Group Pontiac GXP.R to continue defense of Grand-Am titles in 2009
Millville, New Jersey (May 1, 2009): Despite the recent General Motors announcement that the Pontiac brand will be phased out in 2010 Leighton Reese of Leighton Reese Performance Group wanted to assure followers of the Rolex Grand-Am Road Racing Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 that his key partnership with GM Racing has not been adversely affected by those announcements.
Leighton Reese indicated that the relationship of his team and GM Racing are as strong as ever and all parties share the commitment to continue the defense of the Grand-Am Series titles won in 2008 by Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards and the #07 Pontiac GXP.R.
"We at Leighton Reese Performance Group are committed to finishing the 2009 season and to finish it in a manner in which Pontiac and Grand-Am fans have come to expect from us," said Leighton Reese as his team prepared the #07 Pontiac GXP.R for Round 3 of the Rolex Grand-Am Championships at Thunderbolt Raceway in Millville New Jersey. "We are still pursuing the defense of our Grand-Am Team and Drivers' Championships as well as the Manufacturers' Championship for Pontiac in GT!"
"VIR was a bitter sweet weekend for Pontiac and Banner Racing because Pontiac won in both the GT, a 1-2 finish actually, and the Daytona Prototype classes after extremely strong showings on Saturday while it was announced on Monday that Pontiac would cease operations in 2010," said Leighton Reese. "GM isn't going to sell the brand as they are trying to do with Hummer, SAAB and Saturn. Mostly because Pontiac usually don't have stand-alone dealerships so it would be really hard to separate the brands."
"What this means for us at Leighton Reese Performance Group is that we are still a viable marketing arm of Pontiac," said Reese. "We feel that we have been very successful in that regard. We as a team are still strong and devoted to marketing the Pontiac product by winning Grand-Am races on the track."
"Certainly this is an uneasy time for us because we aren't sure what next year will bring. But the Pontiac dealers across this great country are in a much more precarious position. They have more employees to worry about, they have a lot of money invested in inventory and if they are a standalone Pontiac dealer unfortunately those people are in a world of hurt right now."
"I can always think back to the winters past when I was thinking 'how am I going to get this race team going this year', but we have raced every year with the exception of two for the last 23 or 24 years so somehow we keep racing," said Reese confidently. "Of course in the past we have never done anything as big as the operation we have been blessed to have for the past few seasons.
"We may have to shrink down some more and we have already cut back quite a bit going from a two car operation to just one. We are conserving where ever we can and Grand-Am has made some positive changes regarding cost containment."
The close tie Reese has with Pontiac automobiles goes back to 1967 when his dad came home from work with a brand new Pontiac Tempest Safari.
"I wound up driving it into a lake in high school but that is a different story, at least it was older by then," said Reese with a grin. "I have had some kind of Pontiac thing going on forever."
Reese started his relationship with GM in racing in the Firehawk series.
"I remember back in 1987 when I met Brad Hoyt and he wanted to get into racing and I was working as a mechanic on a Porsche 962 GTP car for Hotchkiss Racing Team," said Reese of his start. "I would sneak off and watch the Firehawk series and I thought, 'I know those guys, I can race with those guys' and I finally got a teammate and a sponsor.
"At the time the big question was whether to go with a Camaro or a Porsche 944. I chose the Camaro because they would be cheaper to race and was pretty competitive. That was the start of my relationship with GM that has gotten bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger over the years. We got some support from the parts division and we won a couple of Firehawk Series which has essentilally become the Grand-Am Koni Challenge Championship."
Back in Reese's Firehawk days he was hired by the Mecum team which was the quasi-factory team.
"I was actually getting paid to drive race cars," said Reese. "I was pretty young then and I thought that I had died and gone to heaven."
In the early 90's Reese turned his attentions to building a Chevy Lumina for the ASA oval track series.
"ASA announced that they would run some races at Brainerd (Minnesota) and Mosport (Leighton's favorite track) and I was contacted by Jim Spaulding at GM who said that they would help me out if I changed the Chevy to a Pontiac Grand-Prix.
"We ran very successfully in that Grand-Prix as a rookie and got on a lot of podiums and got to stand with some legends like Dick Trickle and Butch Miller. And when SCCA announced that they were going to run Trans-Am races in Minneapolis I figured that since we were front row and podium material in the ASA series at Mosport and were only a few seconds off the Trans-Am times there we could convert our ASA Grand-Prix into a workable Trans-Am car. We built our own Trans-Am car and developed that into a race winning Pontiac Grand-Prix."
Through his ASA, Trans-Am and World Challenge racing days Reese's small independent team was always closely aligned with GM products.
"We picked up a little help from GM in the Trans-Am Series and more in the World Challenge GT Series," said Reese. "In 2006 we ran GT Chevy Corvettes in both the Grand-Am and World Challenge championships and I think that showed the people at GM something and we were fortunate to land this Pontiac GXP.R deal."
"To get to this level and win the championships and get recognition for our effort has been a great experience," Reese assessed of his ascent to team owner of the 2008 Grand-Am GT Championship team. "It is sad to see what is coming down the pike for Pontiac and LRPG but I wouldn't say that I am bitter at all. I would say we are more appreciative for everyone that has helped us get here, compete at this level and win."
"Pontiac has had a long history of performance and winning and I have had a long history with GM and Pontiac," Reese concluded. "GM isn't selling the Pontiac name so hopefully the heritage can be re-born and we will see Pontiacs racing and winning again in the future."