American touring car driver, Kevin Gleason, had high hopes for a decent race weekend in the Italian round of the TCR International Series at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, but a series of punctures in qualifying and the races thwarted his recent progress up the championship leaderboard.
Fresh from podium success last time out in Portugal, 28-year old Gleason looked well on the pace throughout practice and into qualifying on Saturday (23 May) and was confident of a front row start as he embarked on his first flying lap.
However, having set the fastest time into sector one, a deflating tyre into the ultra-fast Lesmo 1 saw the Philadelphia-based driver run wide and collect the barriers, sidelining him immediately for the session and resigning him to back of the field starts for Sundays (24 May).
Undeterred, Gleason focused on making the best of his Honda machinery and set out on a recovery mission as the lights went green on the first of the Sunday’s races.
A sterling effort saw him drive with pace and maturity to sixth position from flat last at the start, setting the fastest racing lap along the way.
Race two and once again Gleason was forced to start at the back of the field. High on confidence, Gleason again made a charge from the rear, passing cars at will on the ultra-high speed Italian track.
After a handful of laps the American was up to sixth and already ahead of Ukranian teammate Igor Skuz, who started P4, and had set another fastest lap, only to have his progress abruptly halted by another puncture – his third of the weekend.
“There was a lot of contact and I guess I picked up the puncture then,” said Gleason. “I had the fastest lap in both races so my speed is there, but, when you have to come from the back there is a great deal of risk with the less experienced drivers. I’m looking forward to Salzburgring although I have never driven there. I really need to collect a big bag of points to keep my championship chase on schedule, so we will be trying really hard to make the most of the Honda’s performance.”
The next round of the TCR International series takes place at the Salzburgring, Austria (30-31 May). For details of TV and live stream schedules visit the official www.tcr-series.com website.