Watkins Glen International Hosts First Test of the 2011 Season

GRAND-AM Continental Sports Car Challenge Team Automatic Racing Prepares for Continental Tire 150 at The Glen

No 99 drivers through Esses

David Russell charges through the Esses in the No. 99 BMW M3 Coupe for Automatic Racing during testing.

Even the threat of rain and high winds could not keep the cars of Automatic Racing off of the twists and turns of Watkins Glen International in order to prepare for the fast approaching Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen event weekend, June 3-5.  David Russell and Rob Ecklin, Jr. hopped into their BMW M3 Coupes and became the first professionals to test at WGI this season.  The GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge drivers were hoping to gain some knowledge for the Continental Tire 150 at The Glen which will run on Friday, June 3.

Both drivers described the track surface as to being very green due to the combination of constant rain over the last two weeks and the fact that the only cars to hit the track prior to today were for either Opening Weekend in mid April or a two-day driving school.  Even with a lack of rubber build-up around the 3.4-mile Grand Prix course, Russell had a plan to make the test as successful as possible.

“All of the rain obviously knocked all of the rubber offer and it just takes awhile to lay some more rubber down so we can get some grip,” Russell said. “It just seems that the Esses and the Inner Loop are the two areas that need just a little bit more rubber laid down. We’re going to run more today, so we’re going to lay more down and keep working on the car. It is all about improving the car.”

Ecklin, Jr., a native of Corning, NY, has driven on his home track as part of the Skip Barber Driving School numerous times, but the Continental Tire 150 will be the first time he has driven in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at The Glen.  The Corning East High School graduate is not only the owner and president of the team’s primary sponsor, Invisible Glass, but is also expected to team up with Russell in the No. 99 BMW M3 Coupe for the race.

“This is the first time I have had a car on a track that I know, so that is very helpful,” Ecklin, Jr. said. “We used to come up for quite a few events, I’ve watched a lot of races here, including Formula 1, up until 1978 with my Father.”

Russell has been driving in GRAND-AM since 2001 and this is the second consecutive season that he has been one of the first professional drivers to take on the historic road course.  Despite the fact that he has run at The Glen numerous times over the years, Russell always looks forward to returning each season.

“This, for me, is a special place,” Russell said. “This was the first place that I did my professional race in 1986. This was my first experience here and I have always wanted to come back. This is my favorite track in the United States.”

Not unfamiliar with The Glen, both have been fans of the track for sometime and had some great advice for fans looking to see the best action during the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen weekend, June 3-5. While Ecklin does not have a favorite spot to watch the race and would walk the track and take it from all angles, Russell knows where to find the most action.

 “For me it is Turn 1 or the Inner Loop, because those are the prime passing areas here, so that is where most of the action happens,” Russell said. “I am as much of a fan as I am a driver. I really enjoy watching the races, whether it is live, which is obviously the best, or whether it is the television broadcast. Those are the best areas I think.”

Be there for it all and catch the first racing action of the 2011 season with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen weekend, June 3-5.  The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge makes its return as a support series with the Continental Tire 150 at The Glen. The Daytona Protoypes and GT Class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series will hit the track for the featured event of the weekend, the 30th Running of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. The two GRAND-AM series combined with the F2000 Championship and F1600 F Championship Series make the entire weekend a great value for families.  Children under the age of 15 are FREE with the purchase of an adult ticket. Adult tickets are $35 each and may be purchased online or over the phone.

Tickets for the entire 2011 season at Watkins Glen International are on sale now!  Fans can order their tickets by calling the WGI ticket office at 866-461-RACE (7223) or by logging onto the official website, www.TheGlen.com. Tickets, gift certificates as well as track merchandise may be purchased at The Shop located at 2 North Franklin Street in historic downtown Watkins Glen. The Shop is open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 9-4 and is closed Sunday. Keep up with all of the latest happenings at The Glen by going to the official Watkins Glen International Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/watkinsgleninternational and following WGI on Twitter, @WGI.

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