Phoenix: Chris Gleason race report

Gleason and Bunting finish fourth in GT class at Phoenix Saturday night AVONDALE, Ariz., May 3 - The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS ...

Gleason and Bunting finish fourth in GT class at Phoenix Saturday night

AVONDALE, Ariz., May 3 - The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS #66 of Chris Gleason and Marc Bunting ran as high as third place in the GT class during the AJs Fine Foods 250 Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway, and finished fourth in class and ninth overall at the checkered.

"We had to overcome a lot of little problems this weekend," Gleason said shortly after unbuckling his safety harnesses and climbing out of the Porsche Saturday night. "We wanted that podium finish and we fell a little short of that, but this was an older car and we had a lot of little issues with it. But since we started with The Racers Group we were sixth at Sebring and we won that Porsche Club of America event at Road Atlanta and now we were fourth here, and I think we're getting the most out of these cars that we can."

On Friday Bunting qualified fourth in class and 12th overall in the 37-car field for the Grand Am Rolex Series event. He was behind the wheel when the two-hour, 45-minute race, which was televised live on SPEED Channel, got the green flag at 6 p.m. local time.

It only took the Monkton, Md.-based driver 67 minutes to settle into third place in the GT class. The team pitted under a full-course caution, which conveniently fell around 7:30 p.m. so a stranded Camaro could be towed in from a dangerous spot. Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., took over at that point as The Racers Group crew added fuel and replaced the Porsche's tires.

He had a little incident about 20 minutes later when he spun in turn two on lap 99, but he was able to get going in the right direction under his own power just a few seconds later. "I got the wrong gear and just spun the car around; that was my only incident," he said.

Gleason added that the first 30 laps he was driving he "had the car going as well as I could," but it started to understeer very badly after that and towards the end he was just trying to bring it home in one piece, which he accomplished.

"This car is a 2000 car that has been updated, where the car we ran at Sebring was a 2002 car," he said. "I think we probably got the most out of this old 2000 car as we could. I could tell the difference between this car and the 2002 car immediately; how it handles, how it brakes, everything. Two years of progress in racing is light years. We fell a little short of our goal tonight, but at least I didn't understeer it into the wall.

"Our car hadn't been raced for awhile, so we were helping to develop it," he explained. "The gears were wrong and we couldn't fix that; this car doesn't have a racing gearbox, but it's more of a modified street gearbox, so it's a difficult thing to change gears. We had the Daytona gears in and we couldn't use them all here at Phoenix, so that was one problem."

Earlier in the weekend the team had problems with the car's shock absorbers too. "On Friday the car was porpoising a lot," Gleason said, referring to how it bobbled over the road course like a porpoise crests waves.

After they located the shock specialist serving this race, they had the car's shocks tested and found that the left-rear shock wasn't functioning correctly. "We re-valved the shocks before the race so we had fresh shocks, but we had to guess at the set-up for them," Gleason explained. "Shocks have an almost infinite number of settings and we didn't have any opportunity to test them out after they were reworked.

"Marc qualified the car and he did a real nice job," Gleason said. "He also did a great job in the race; he drove very consistent laps. We thought we'd have to make two stops but we got better gas mileage that we thought we would. Marc did about 90 minutes on a full tank.

"Then I got out there and I was turning the same lap times as Marc; I think Marc did about 75 laps and I did 60 or so," he added.

But it wasn't smooth sailing.

"When I was out there, there was a lot of debris on the track," Gleason related. "There were big chunks of rubber and stones. One time I heard banging under the car and I thought for sure something had broken. Another time I thought I had a flat tire. What was happening was that I was picking up chunks of debris and throwing them around in the wheel wells. The whole right fender was broken and chipped after the race from picking up all that debris. That kind of slowed us up, but I don't think it affected any positions."

The class-winning Ferrari of Cort Wagner and Brent Martini got second overall in the race, beating the second-place GT car, the BMW of Craig Stanton and Mike Fitzgerald, in the last turn on the very last lap. The Porsche of Richard Steranka and Johannes Van Overbeek ended up third in the GT class and sixth overall.

Gleason crossed the finish line five laps down to the overall winner, the Brumos Racing Fabcar Porsche Daytona Prototype of Hurley Haywood and J.C. France, for the fourth-place honors in GT. The BMW of Hugh Plumb and Brian Cunningham was right behind to take fifth in that class, seven laps down to the overall winner.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Hurley Haywood , Chris Gleason , Hugh Plumb , Craig Stanton , Brent Martini , Richard Steranka , Marc Bunting , Cort Wagner