Kevin Gleason hailed 2015 as “the best year of his life in racing” as the TCR International Series came to a close in the Suncity Group 62nd Macau Grand Prix (19-22 November).
Gleason quickly understood why Macau’s Circuito da Guia street track has such an infamous reputation and is widely recognised as one of world motorsport’s sternest challenges, but he showed respect for the circuit by being patient and methodical in his approach and significant improvements in lap time followed.
The 28-year old Pennsylvanian focused on getting acquainted with his Honda Civic TCR and analysed data to identify the optimal braking points and corner entry speeds, while relying on insight from his new teammate, mentor and eight-time Macau winner, Rob Huff, to learn the finer details of the high-speed, narrow and bumpy Guia circuit.
What started out as a sizeable 5.7s deficit to ‘King of Macau’, Huff, was significantly reduced to 1.6s as Gleason applied his newly acquired knowledge and grew in confidence during a pair of 30-minute free practice sessions, and the student would lead the master in the first phase of Saturday’s (21 November) two-part qualifying.
Gleason surged to the top of the timing screens in a red flag-affected Q1 session and then backed up Huff by setting the second fastest time overall in Q2, which determines the top 12 grid positions, to complete a stunning WestCoast Racing front-row lockout.
“I was really happy with how qualifying went and it was great to be on the front row on my first ever outing in Macau. The track is more difficult than I could have ever anticipated and it has been a real learning process. I progressed in every session, which is pretty satisfying.”
Sadly, Gleason lost ground in a frenetic start to the qualification race for the Macau Guia Race 2.0T on Sunday (22 November) and finished seventh, reluctant to attempt a risky overtake on his more experienced teammate, Gianni Morbidelli, despite being visibly quicker.
The Macau Guia Race 2.0T – the final round of the 2015 TCR International Series – barely lasted one corner for Gleason and several of his rivals, who were caught up in a spectacular pileup that left the young American’s Honda in a sorry state with terminal front-end damage.
However, Gleason was pragmatic and said: “The Macau Grand Prix weekend, like the entire 2015 season, has been very up and down, with very high highs and very low lows. Unfortunately, my debut in Macau ended on a low and it’s hugely disappointing. I started the weekend so strongly and I was the quickest of those who have never raced here before, as well as all of the experienced drivers, except Rob (Huff). I’m so proud of that and it’s unfortunate that the season had to end with a seventh and a DNF. Overall, this has been the best year of my life in racing, because I’ve achieved more than I ever have in the past and I think I’ve really moved on as a racing driver.”