Continental Tire Challenge - Gleason Brothers Finish 11th At VIR
ALTON, May 15, 2011: Race strategy went right out the window due to five full-course caution flags for 27 of the 56 laps of the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at VIRginia International Raceway Saturday, but the Gleason brothers still almost salvaged a top-10 finish.
Chris Gleason Jr. of Wayne, Pa. and his brother, Kevin Gleason of Johnstown, Pa. finished 11th in the Street Tuner class with their APR Motorsport VW GTI sponsored by VW DriverGear, APR, BBS, Motul and DXD.
Chris Gleason Jr. recorded the pair’s best qualifying results of the season to date when he qualified third with a lap of 2:10.976 and an average speed of 89.879 miles per hour for the challenging, 3.270-mile, 17-turn road course near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. The qualifying result was especially gratifying since the team was forced to battle an electrical problem with the car during the last practice session.
Chris Gleason Jr. started the race. At first things went quite well in the two-hour-and-30-minute event, called the Bosch Engineering 200. He set the entry’s fastest lap of the race on lap two with a time of 2:11.398 and an average speed of 89.590 mph.
Just 10 laps were in the books when the first full-course yellow came out for a Mustang that was off course at Turn 14. Eight laps later another yellow waved for Gary Gibson’s APR Audi S4, which had gone off into a tire barrier rimming Turn 1.
The Gleasons’ VW wasn’t involved in any of the accidents but a little bit later Gleason dropped to ninth after he went off course exiting Turn 1 while battling Michael Galati’s Kia. He was able to quickly move back up to third, however, thanks to some hard driving and some other competitors pitting.
At the one-hour mark Gleason was still solidly in third place. Shortly after that he dropped to fourth when Ron Farmer passed him on lap 27. Right after that another full-course yellow flew for Taylor Hacquard’s Mazda, which had crashed in Turn 6.
There was about an hour remaining in the race at that point, so Gleason pitted under that full-course yellow to allow his brother to take over. The pit stop caused the entry to drop from fourth to 18th, and two more full-course yellows didn’t give Kevin Gleason much time to advance. It took eight laps from laps 35 to 42 to clean up an accident when the pole-winning Porsche Boxster had a spectacular crash in Turn 10 right in front of the Gleasons’ car. Four more laps were spent slowly circling the course when a BMW crashed in Turn 1 with 44 laps down.
The final restart occurred on lap 48 with about 15 minutes left. Kevin Gleason was 15th at that point, but some attrition allowed him to advance to 13th place with three minutes remaining. He spent the waning minutes trying to pass Eric Foss. Although he wasn’t successful some further attrition allowed him to take the checkered flag in 11th place.
The race will be broadcast on SPEED at 1 p.m. ET next Sunday, May 22.
The next event is coming right up May 27-28 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. Live timing and scoring will be offered on the Internet at grand-am.com.
The drivers’ post-race quotes follow:
Chris Gleason Jr.: “VIR was filled with ups and downs for us. Our weekend started out with numerous car problems leading up to qualifying. Fortunately the APR team did a great job getting the car in good order, and we had our best qualifying result of the year to date, which placed us third on the grid.
“The race started off just how we envisioned. I ran in third for most of my stint and I was keeping pace with the two Porsches in front of us. About halfway through my stint I had an off-track excursion when one of the Kias, which was down a lap at the time, raced me hard into Turn 1. I had to go deep into the braking zone to try to get by him, as the rest of the field was bearing down on me. Unfortunately I braked a little too late. The car understeered when I was trying to turn in, and I went four off. Luckily I was able to rejoin the race with no damage and with minimal time lost.
“I handed the car off to Kevin and he did a great job during his stint, especially considering the limited time he had to get acclimated to the track, which is probably the most challenging and technical one we will face this year.
“The bottom line is that we encountered a bit of bad luck with our race strategy. We would need a crystal ball to foresee all the accidents that took place throughout the race.
“What ended up happening is that all of the cars that pitted early in the race were in a position to challenge for the lead at the end. Normally most of the cars that pitted early would be forced to make another fuel stop and we would leap-frog them back into the front of the pack. Instead they were able to stretch out their fuel because of the amount of time spent running under yellow caused by all the accidents.
“Kevin and I have to keep our heads up and keep driving smart and hard and know that one of these days the race will go our way. A big thanks goes to APR, which worked very hard to give us a great car this weekend.”
Kevin Gleason: "Hats off to all the guys at APR for diagnosing an electrical problem in the car just in time for qualifying. Thanks to them Chris was able to go out and lay down a solid lap for third place.
“No one could have predicted the yellow flags in this race, which left us on the unlucky side of strategy. I was able to pick up a few spots on the first restart but unfortunately we went right back to yellow for a long time after Rick DeMan’s Porsche had a spectacular accident just in front of me heading into Oak Tree. I was extremely relieved to see him walking away from the crash.
“We raced hard when it was green but just didn’t have the time or track position that we needed for a stronger result.”