SEBRING, Fla. - Alex Job Racing drivers Bill Sweedler (Westport, Conn.), Townsend Bell (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Frankie Montecalvo (Highlands, N.J.), finished 15th in GTD following Saturday's 65th annual IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.
Alex Job Racing qualified 15th to start today's once around the clock race. And, they knew from the start, it was going to be an uphill battle to find themselves on the podium. But, with it being a long race, the drivers and crew were up for the challenge - and a challenging day it proved to be.
Early in the race, the crew had to replace a fuel pump on the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3, which put the team two laps down. They spent the majority of the race pushing hard to get those two laps back. But, with about three and a half hours to go in the race, Sweedler dropped a left rear wheel in Turn 13. The car spun and touched the wall. As a result of the contact, Sweedler then had to gently nurse the No. 23 Audi back to pit lane for repairs.
"I went off at 13," Sweedler said. "We were struggling a little with the cars handling all day. I just pushed off and fell into that trough and something broke on the rear of the car. We spun around and we touched the front left. We broke a tie rod on the front left and something broken in the rear. We got that repaired. It took a couple of laps. We went down a couple of positions. We just tried to hold our position."
After nearly 20 minutes on pit lane, the team replaced both the left front and left rear tie rods, put Montecalvo in the car and sent him back on track in 17th place - 11 laps down to the GTD race leaders. This started the beginning of what would be a double stint for Montecalvo.
Nearing the end of his first stint, the race went full course yellow. At that point, Montecalvo brought the No. 23 Audi to the pits for fuel and tires. But, as misfortune would have it, he spun on cold tires and made contact with the wall. The result - a large hole in the right front splitter. By the time his double stint was done, Montecalvo advanced one position to 16th before handing the car over to Bell for final hour and a half. Bell brought the car home 15th.
"After we broke some of those tow links, we ended up having a little tow out, which made it a little difficult on cold tires," Montecalvo said. "It just snuck up on me. The back end just came right around. I had a big moment, corrected, then just couldn't stop and hit the tire wall broke the splitter and front fender. You live and you learn. Even in the heat of the day, I felt the car had a little issue in the back. I just didn't realize it was that bad on cold tires. After that, it was just a really big handful. Hats off to the guys for getting it back out there really quick and patching it up the best they could. It was not a fun car to drive after that. Before that, it was manageable."
"This was tough day," Bell said. "We just got beat up by Sebring I think. Bill had the issue and the guys worked really hard to get it fixed. We went some laps down at that point. But, nobody stopped working. It's so cool. The guys' eyes light up when they have a project to work on. They jumped over the wall and got it going. Then, Frankie had an unfortunate situation there on cold tires. And, then I got in a pretty mangled Audi. We just kind of figured it out. We made wing changes to try to make the car faster - that worked. It was really torn up. But, in the end we finished. When you're down, that's kind of the redemption in all of it. We took the checkered flag."
"This is probably the worst finish I've ever had here," Sweedler said. "It's tough. It's tough for Alex. It's tough for the whole team. Frankie, Townsend and I thought we had a better chance today."
"This is one of the toughest Sebring races this team has ever had," Team Owner Alex Job said. "With the level of competition in GTD, you just can't afford to have any problems. We had several issues that set us back. But, the team did a great job to keep us in the race. And, most importantly, we finished."
The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship travels to the west coast April 7-8 for the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
This season, race fans can following Alex Job Racing on Instagram @alexjobracing.
Alex Job Racing
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing with 70 wins (since 1995); including two Rolex 24 GT Class wins in 1999 and 2013. This record is supported by 48 pole positions and 106 podium finishes. The team has won five championships (GTC 2013, 2012, GT in 2004, 2003 and 2002) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts ten Sebring 12-hour wins.
Audi of America
Audi began a new chapter in 2009 with the introduction of the Audi Sport customer racing program. For the first time, it was possible for motorsport customers to acquire a race car designed for the track. Since its inception, the success of the R8 LMS has been significant throughout GT3 racing series worldwide, with multiple victories in the Pirelli World Challenge since 2012. The all-new R8 LMS had strong endurance racing debuts, winning both the 2015 24 hours of Nürburgring and the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, concluding the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech season with the Manufacturer's Championship in GTD. The Audi R8 LMS shares more than 50% of its parts with the Audi R8 street car including the naturally aspirated V10 5.2 liter engine, the Audi Space Frame and a variety of other components. Audi of America, Inc. and its U.S. dealers offer a full line of German-engineered luxury vehicles. AUDI AG is among the most successful luxury automotive brands globally. The Audi Group delivered over 1,800,000 vehicles to customers globally in 2015, and broke all-time company sales records for the 6th straight year in the U.S. Visit audiusa.com, audiusa.com/newsroom or audiusa.com/motorsport for more information regarding Audi vehicles and business topics.