BRASELTON, Ga. - Alex Job Racing drivers Bill Sweedler (Westport, Conn.), Townsend Bell (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Frankie Montecalvo (Highlands, N.J.), finished sixth in the GTD class in today's IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Bell started 13th on the GTD grid and had the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 in the top-10 just eight laps into the 10-hour race. He kept it in the top-10 before handing it over to Sweedler, who also kept it in the top 10 during his first stint before turning it over to Montecalvo on lap 88.
From there, the team settled into a nice race pace with Sweedler, Bell and Montecalvo trading stints, respectively, throughout the first seven hours of the race. With 3:20 to go in the race, Montecalvo finally had the No. 23 Audi in the top five and running lap times equal to the GTD class leaders. On lap 262, Montecalvo brought the car to pit lane for four tires, fuel and a driver change. That's when Bell got back in.
Shortly after Bell moved into fourth place, he was coming down the hill out of Turn 12 when he did a complete 360 degree spin. He did a great job keeping the car off the outside wall and kept going. He only dropped one spot as a result.
"I just let a Prototype by, turned in and I thought I was on my normal line as he crossed my bow," Bell said of his spin. "I just misjudged it. I climbed the apex curb a little too much. It put me in a huge tank slapper. I got backwards. I looked left - right real quick, snapped the wheel back, locked the brakes - Starsky & Hutch [style]. Years of rental car abuse paid off in the moment. We were lucky."
Montecalvo got back into the car with a little more than two hours to go. Unfortunately, the team learned early on in his stint that Montecalvo did not have radio communication with the team, which added additional challenges late in the race. Montecalvo was in fifth before handing back over to Bell on lap 349 with 47 minutes to go.
"It was pretty stressful," Montecalvo said about having no radio. "I was trying to think about 'if we were a lap down, should I do the pass around or when to pit?' They thought I could at least hear them because I think I did everything they needed me to. So, I'm pretty happy about that even though we had no radio communication whatsoever."
In the final hour of the race, Bell did what he could to put the car on the podium, but simply ran out of time and finished sixth.
"We just survived," Bell said. "Nobody gave up and everybody worked really hard to try to do the best we could. We were fighting with one arm behind our back the whole weekend. I got hit more in this race than I've ever been hit. I got walloped by a PC car in Turn One. I couldn't believe the car held together. I had no radio. The water temp warning light was on the final stint. I had no idea what was going on - just driving around in the dark trying to hang on. We started the season surviving with a sixth [place finish] and we finished the season with a sixth. I'm proud to say finished every race. We had plenty of issues throughout the year that we fought through. But, we did finish every race."
"It [the finish] was not what we were looking for," Sweedler said. "The entire Alex Job team came together. We made virtually no mistakes and that's what you've got to do in an endurance race. Hat's off to Audi. They had a great finish in the No. 29 car. So, congrats to them. Now we've got to look forward to next year and find out what's going on."
"The guys worked their butts off this weekend," Montecalvo said. "I think they had a 3 a.m. call last night trying to get the car right for us. I think they did a great job. We didn't do the whole season this year so we haven't had that much time with the car. Bill and Townsend, I can't thank them enough for their hard work out there. It wasn't easy - especially today. It was really hot in the car. I don't know why it was that hot. It was like a sauna in there. Hats off to the drivers and crew for a great job."
"We struggled with the car in practice and the team stayed late and came in early to get it right for the race," Alex Job, team owner said. "Bill, Frankie and Townsend did a great job behind the wheel. The pit stops were clean and we had good strategy. A top six was all we had today."
The 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship kicks off Jan. 25-28 with the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the Daytona International Speedway.
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.