Leighton Reese qualifies the Banner Engineering Corvette 5th for SPEED World Challenge GT Series season finale at Laguna Seca. October 16, 2004 -- Monterey California - Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, MN, knows something about the Mazda Raceway...
Leighton Reese qualifies the Banner Engineering Corvette 5th for SPEED World Challenge GT Series season finale at Laguna Seca.
October 16, 2004 -- Monterey California - Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, MN, knows something about the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca and after his first full season of competition in the SPEED World Challenge GT Series so he went into his qualifying session knowing that putting his Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette near the front of the 35 car field would be critical to success here on the demanding 2.2 mile road course.
On his first hot lap Reese clocked a time of 1:32.038 which initially was second fast and would eventually stand up well enough for a 5th starting positions for Sunday's race.
"Joe (crew chief Joe Kantarik) said good lap and P2," Reese said. "Which is good news but which surprised me because he gave me the time and it was a minute 32 flat and I was predicting that the pole would be a high 29 based on yesterday's times in the heat."
"We filtered back to 5th but I think that that is a pretty fair representation," Reese said.
"If you have a known fast in front that is good but you have to leave at least 5 or 600 feet in front of you," Reese said of his qualifying strategy. "Because if you are going just a few tenths faster you are going to catch him and if you don't catch him on the first lap you are going to catch him on the second and the whole idea was to do three good laps and then get off the track."
Leighton slowed down at the beginning of his out lap as Leighton and Lou Gigliotti, driver of the LG Pro Long tube Header Corvette, had planned on running together for their hot lap but he felt that Gigliotti was going too slow on the out lap and his tires weren't warm enough to be effective.
"His (Gigliotti) out lap was very, very slow and I wanted to put some more heat in my tires," Leighton explained. "I kept wondering when he was going to take off and pretty soon we are at the corkscrew and my tires are ice cold. I want more heat in them than that."
"I passed Lou back coming down the hill and he got extremely mad me because I broke the deal, but that wasn't the case at all," Reese continued. "I just didn't want to do my first lap on cold tires. I was good and Lou spun so I guess I was right."
For the race tomorrow, which has the potential for rain, Reese felt that a start was critical to maintain position but that the race would also come to drivers who plan for the long run.
"Obviously the race is only 50 minutes but there is an endurance aspect to the race," Leighton explained describing his race strategy.
"I break the race into four parts, Leighton continued. "The start, the first corner, the first lap and then the race. Of course the first three segments only take about a minute and a quarter but I think it is going to be a good race because you are going to see some cars burning off tires and you are going to see some guys on a mission from the middle of the pack."
"If you look at the field from forth to tenth or eleventh you are only talking about 2 or 3 tenths of a second so it's brutal out there man," Leighton said of the competition he will face in the race. "We're not having any party or anything just because we qualified 5th or anything. That's nothing if we can't finish in the top five in the race."
"I would love to finish on the podium and I don't think it is out of reach but we'll be happy with a top five," Reese concluded. "That's a good showing with the bunch of tough customers here in the World Challenge Series."
The final World Challenge GT race of 2004 will thunder through the Monterey hills and thrill the California race fans on Sunday the 17th of October at 1 PM Pacific Time. The race can also be seen live on SPEED Channel at 4 PM Eastern Time.
After the season finale at Laguna Seca Leighton's Banner Engineering Corvette will be on display in the Hotchkis Performance booth on the of the SEMA show at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Tuesday November 2nd through Friday the 5th.