SEBRING, Fla. - Alex Job Racing drivers Bill Sweedler (Westport, Conn.), Townsend Bell (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Frankie Montecalvo (Highlands, N.J.), will start from the eighth row on the GTD grid for this weekend's 65th annual IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.
Under sunny skies and temperatures over 70 degrees, Bell was behind the wheel of the No. 23 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for this afternoon's 15 minute GTD qualifying session. Bell turned his fastest lap with 2:02.276 on his seventh circuit around the 3.74-mile, 17 turn. Unfortunately, Bell's top time has the 10-time Sebring-winning Alex Job Racing team starting 15th on the GTD grid.
"It was a trouble-free session," Bell said. "We've kind of lost the handle on our Audi now. We have to go back and figure out why and try to get back to where we were at the test. We were pretty comfortable with the car. We haven't quite gotten back to that feeling we had and we've deviated trying to chase something better. But, like anything, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Now we're losing on balance. We'll keep working at it. It's a new car for the team. I love being back at Sebring. I love this race track, even if I'm not fast. I love driving around here. It's a blast. There's going to be a huge turnout. The weather's perfect. Like always, we'll have a good race car and we'll try to keep our nose clean."
In 2012, Sweedler and Bell won at Sebring in an Alex Job Racing Porsche. Though the team has struggled to find the right setup for the new Audi, Sweedler knows this is a long race and anything can happen at Sebring.
"Well, we didn't have it today," Sweedler said of qualifying. "We thought we had the right car (setup) yesterday. We've had a couple of warnings on the dash that we're trying to figure out right now. But, to be 15th on the grid, we're all scratching our heads right now. Some of the cars appear, in some cases, to be significantly faster. We can't figure it out. So, we'll work on it. Race day is another day."
"I think we're missing the setup a little bit," Montecalvo said. "I don't think BOP is in Audi's favor though one [Audi] is P2. But, they are very strong with that car. They've had it for a long time in Europe. I think we just need to step back a little bit and find some of that speed that we had early in the weekend. Townsend did a great job in the car. I know he was struggling a little bit out there by the looks of the video. It's a long race. I'm not really worried about where we qualified. But, we just need to get the car right for the race."
"Sebring changes dramatically with the weather and it is hotter today than it has been all week," Alex Job, team owner said. "We have been searching for that comfort level that we had at the test a few weeks back and we are not quite there yet. We know how to race here and we will get it sorted for 12 hours of racing tomorrow."
The green flag with drop on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 10:40 a.m. (EDT) Saturday, March 18. Race fans can catch live racing coverage beginning at 10:30 a.m. on IMSA.tv. FOX Sports 1 will take over live coverage at 12:30 p.m. and continue through the end of the race.
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.