Alex Job Racing (AJR) swept the GTC podium tonight in the 58th running of American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Presented by Tequila Patron Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race.
The AJR entered No. 81 Mission Foods Porsche took the win with the team car No. 23 Battery Tender/Tequila Patron coming second and the No. 80 Car Amigo 911 finishing third.
Leh Keen shot off to an early lead behind the wheel of the No. 81 Mission Foods/Alex Job Racing/Porsche GT3 911 Cup. The new to ALMS competition driver set the pace for the field early on by running laps a second faster than the rest of the field. The speed and motivation carried over to teammates Juan Gonzalez and Butch Leitzinger. Aside from a stop-and-go-penalty for a pit stop violation, the team’s time at the front was never lost. For Keen it is his first win at Sebring and in ALMS competition as well as having the honor of posting the fastest lap of the race in GTC. For Leitzinger it his second win, the first was 20 years ago. For Gonzalez it adds to his family’s legacy at Sebring where his brother (Roberto) finished third in 1976.
“It wasn’t easy,” Keen said. “The race was pretty intense. I have to give it to Alex – one-two-three on the podium is a great achievement as well as the same result from qualifying. His team puts together some great cars. We don’t have a dent or a scratch on our car. We kept it clean. The only hiccup we had was the pit lane violation. We were able to finish with a couple of laps lead. I am happy to be a part of the team and of course have the top step on the GTC podium.”
“This is a dream come true for me,” Gonzalez said. “I have been racing at this track for 20 years in vintage. I always wanted to run the 12-hour race. In 1976 I was here when my brother finished third. This is an accomplishment for me and one of my dreams. Alex, Butch and Leh made the dream come true. I did my part behind the wheel being steady and staying out of trouble, a great day!”
“Leh and Juan did a great job,” Leitzinger said. “By the time I got in the car we had a great lead and that makes it easy. The car preparation was great, other teams were having problems. I just kind of pumped out laps. I hate to say it, but it was about as easy as a race at Sebring ever gets. Nothing was really asked of us. We didn’t have to throw out huge laps to catch someone or make-up ground. Leh gave us a big advantage at the beginning and we never seeded it after that point.”
The No. 23 Battery Tender/Tequila Patron/Alex Job Racing/Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driven by Romeo Kapudija, Bill Sweedler and Jan-Dirk Lueders finished the day in second. The team had to battle back from some overzealous driving that resulted in a couple of spins on the track.
“My last stint was the dusk run into the dark,” Sweedler said. “The only issue we had was that we couldn’t use the brights with the lights. We were able to bring it home in second. Alex and the team did a great job all week. We had a mishap on the track on Wednesday and the guys had do some body repair, but they got us back out on Thursday as good if not better than it was on Wednesday. Romeo and Jan-Dirk were very solid behind the wheel all day.”
“It was a great day for Alex Job Racing, Battery Tender and Tequila Patron,” Kapudija said. “The team worked really hard to get the car flawless for the race. My last stint I just drove it around like it was Sunday. I was a little nervous, I made sure that traffic wasn’t an issue and we weren’t in the way. I am happy for the second place finish. My teammates did a great job. Everyone came in fresh and my off season conditioning really paid-off.”
“It was awesome,” Lueders said. “My last stint was in the dark. I like driving at night and in traffic. We had a little high-speed under-steer in the car, but other than that it was a lot of fun. The guys in the other classes were very fair and they were clean with their overtaking. The team supported us from A to Z. We had a few small mistakes, I had a drive-thru penalty because of a pit lane speed violation. In general it was a real smooth race for us. Thanks to the great preparation by the team we had a great day.”
Luis Diaz, Ricardo Gonzalez and Patrick Kelly finished third in their No. 80 IDN/Car Amigo/Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. After starting in third position the trio ran into some early issues with flat spotted tires and a malfunction with the driver cool suit, causing them to pit out of sequence. Once they settled into a rhythm they were able to drive back through the field and take the third step on the podium completing the AJR sweep.
“I am very happy, what a great way to start out the year,” Diaz said. “At the beginning of the race we had a lot of issues and it really didn’t look even possible to make it to the podium. But everybody in the team did a great job, the three of us managed to be very consistent and nobody put a wheel wrong. We just kept fighting and pushing and slowly we came back from last to third. We are very optimistic for the rest of the year. The Alex Job Racing/Car Amigo team started and finished 1-2-3 today which just shows the quality and potential of the team. I’m sure we’ll be able to repeat many times this year. I am very proud to be able to represent IDN, Cooper Gay and Rainmaker Group and to have them with me on the podium.”
“What a great feeling,” Gonzalez said. “I had always dreamed of competing in ALMS and to be on the podium on my first start is amazing. We have been working on this project for a long time and now thanks to IDN, Cooper Gay and Rainmaker Group here we are in Sebring, third in class and with the best team in the paddock. I really enjoyed the race, it was tough at first but during my second stint I managed to pick up a couple of positions and just got into a rhythm and kept closing the gap to our teammates in front. The team gave us a great car, even though Luis and I had very limited experience in our Porsche 911 GT3 the whole crew made it really easy for us. I am very excited for the rest of the season, I have no doubt we’ll be able to win races this year.”
“The car ran great,” Kelly said. “We were able to double stint our tires. I made a slight error, I let go of the pit lane speed limiter too early. I had a couple of bobbles, but I think my pace was really good. There was fits and spurts in traffic, I would have five laps of traffic and then five clear. In my first stint the cool suit wasn’t working. I had water in the coils, but it just heated up and it just baked me. I was able to recover and get back in the car.”
Alex Job celebrated his seventh Sebring win. The team received their three Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars just four weeks ago and the No. 80 car was just finalized 10-days ago. The crew did heavy labor preparing the cars for the 12-hours which paid off with the one-two-three finish.
“The entire crew put in a lot of work the past couple of weeks,” Job said. “This is a grueling race, but the driver line-up we have almost made it look easy. We had a few spins and a couple of penalties, but no one got rattled and everyone did their job. Juan, Leh and Butch ran a flawless race, not so much as a wheel wrong all day. We had a slight bobble in the pits that cost a one minute penalty, but the guys were able to maintain their lead. Romeo, Bill and Jan-Dirk had some early jitters, this being their first 12-hour, but they soon settled down and drove it up to second place. Luis, Ricardo and Patrick also had a few small issues and were able to overcome them and complete our Sebring sweep of the podium. It is very rewarding to come down here with nine drivers, over 30 crew members and have everything go your way.”
The series will travel to the streets of Long Beach, California for the Long Beach Grand Prix to be run on April 17.
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in ALMS history with 37 wins. This record is supported by 45 pole positions and 75 podium finishes. The team has won three championships (GT in 2002, 2003 and 2004) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts six Sebring 12 hour wins.
The ALMS GTC category is specific to one of the most popular factory produced racing cars in the world, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Developed for Porsche’s one-make series around the world, the new version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is based on the road-going 911 GT3 RS. The power unit featured in the new 911 GT3 Cup is largely identical to the production engine of the 911 GT3 RS with the same output of 450 bhp and the same maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm.
Courtesy ALMS © RIF