Gleason and James to Drive Factory BMW Starting with Rolex 24 JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Jan. 5 - Tom Milner, president of the Prototype Technology Group (PTG), BMW North America's factory endurance sports car team, announced today that Chris Gleason of...
Gleason and James to Drive Factory BMW Starting with Rolex 24
JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Jan. 5 - Tom Milner, president of the Prototype Technology Group (PTG), BMW North America's factory endurance sports car team, announced today that Chris Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. and Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla. will drive one of the team's BMW M3s in the 2005 Grand American Rolex Series.
The announcement was made at a special press reception today at Laurel BMW in Johnstown.
Gleason and James will fly to Daytona Beach International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. in the next 24 hours for testing this weekend in preparation for the first of 14 events on the 2005 schedule, the prestigious Rolex 24 on Feb. 5-6.
Last year's championship-winning car was on display at the reception. Gleason and James will compete in a brand-new car which they'll shake down at the test this weekend.
PTG, based in Winchester, Va., won the Rolex Series' GT championship in 2004. It has won its class at the Rolex 24 twice. PTG has been BMW North America's primary U.S. motorsports research and development team for the BMW M3 since 1995. In addition to BMW North America, its primary sponsor is BMW Financial Services.
Both Gleason and James drove for The Racers Group Porsche team last year, and finished behind only the team they are joining for the 2005 season, the PTG effort.
PTG will field two BMWs in the Rolex 24, the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America. The #21 will be driven by Gleason, James, Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand at the Rolex 24. The #22 will be driven by Justin Marks; R.J. Valentine; Milner's 18-year-old son, Tom; and Kelly Collins.
Milner explained that for the other 13 races the team will field four BMW M3s. Gleason and James' car number will change to #22, while Auberlen and Hand will be in the #21 starting with the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March. The #16 will be driven by Marks and young Milner, and the #17 will be driven by Collins and Valentine for the balance of the season.
Gleason said that driving a factory race car is a dream come true. "PTG is one of the finest GT teams in the whole world, not just in the United States," he explained. "Tom Milner has built more than just a race team. It's just like the Pittsburgh Steelers; they have developed a special culture which carries certain values, character and integrity. No matter what athletic abilities an athlete has, if he won't fit into their special culture, they don't sign him.
"Tom Milner has developed the same thing with PTG, and I'm very proud to be part of that culture. I'll do my best to represent them well on and off the track."
Both James and Gleason said that they were the other one's mentor. "Last year Ian taught me a lot of driving techniques," Gleason said. "He's an exceptional driver and a good friend."
"It's a real honor for us to be joining PTG and for me to be driving with Chris again," said James, a native of Great Britain. "PTG is one of the mainstays of American sports car racing. Chris has proved time and time again that he doesn't just talk about things; he is really good at organizing them and making them happen. He has taught me a lot about business and about how to conduct my life."
Milner said that he and Gleason have been friends for 30 years, and he's glad to finally have him driving one of his BMWs. "I'm very pleased to get Chris out of a Porsche," he joked. "Ian and Chris gave us fits last year.
"Ian is a great young talent, and Chris's strengths are his consistency and his experience," Milner elaborated. "In our kind of racing it's important for a driver to be consistent and not get himself into a situation where he puts the effort at risk. Chris is a team player, and we're very glad he'll be racing with us this year."
Matt Smith of Laurel BMW made the opening remarks at the reception, and presented Gleason with a gift to commemorate the occasion. A light lunch followed the speakers' comments.
The Rolex Series races are televised on SPEED. Twelve of the events will be held in the United States; one will be held in Canada and the circuit's season finale will be held in Mexico.
For more information on the series, see www.grandamerican.com and www.speed.com. The team's Web site is at www.ptgracing.com. For more information on Gleason and his company, Gleason Inc., see www.gleasoninc.com.
Gleason was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.