After an up-and-down experience in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Mosport presented by Mobil1 Sunday at Mosport International Raceway, Genoa Racing ended up right where it belongs — on the podium.
Thanks to drivers Frankie Montecalvo and Christian Zugel, excellent race strategy by team manager Thomas Knapp, great pit work by the Zionsville, Ind.-based team and a bit of old-fashioned good luck, the team finished third in the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) class in the race, part of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
The two-hour-and-45-minute race was called complete with 26 minutes remaining after the track crew needed more time to repair guardrails at the Andretti Straight. They were damaged when hit by Luke Hines’ Porsche after it was tapped by Jonny Cocker’s Lola at the 2-hour mark, bringing out a full-course caution and then a red flag. Luckily no one was hurt.
Genoa Racing’s “sister” car, the Green Earth Team Gunnar/Green Earth Technologies No. 99 of Gunnar Jeannette and Elton Julian, won the LMPC class and finished fourth overall with 95 laps completed.
The Level 5 Motorsports No. 55 of Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut was in the pits when the red flag waved but it got second in the class by finishing fifth overall, again with 95 laps completed.
Genoa Racing’s No. 36, which was co-driven by Montecalvo, of Highlands, N.J. and Zugel, of Holmdel, N.J., was third in class and eighth overall with 93 laps complete. The car that finished fourth in class, the Level 5 Motorsports No. 95 of Scott Tucker and Andy Wallace, also completed 93 laps.
It was the first podium finish for Genoa Racing since it became associated with Green Earth Team Gunnar, although the team had three podiums earlier in the year with other drivers. As it has since Lime Rock in July, this weekend the No. 36 carried decals promoting Green Earth Team Gunnar’s sponsors: G-Oil, Bayshore Recycling and the Zais Group. Sunday’s race marked the first ALMS podium finish for Montecalvo, who at 19 was the youngest driver in the race, and the fourth ALMS podium finish for Zugel. Both are rookies in this series.
Montecalvo impressed everyone when he qualified second in class and eighth overall on Saturday with a time of 1:12.013 (122.928 miles per hour) for the 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course. That was just 0.558 of a
second slower than the time that Luis Diaz clocked to earn the class pole and an automatic new track record. The top four cars in the class qualified within 0.805 of a second.
Zugel was in the No. 36 for the start of the race. He spent the majority of his stint in 12th place overall and sixth in class, trying to catch the No. 55 car of Tucker and Wallace while holding off the GT leader, Patrick Long. He was sixth in class and 10th overall when he pitted at the 1-hour mark on lap 44 for four fresh Michelin tires, fuel and for Montecalvo to take over. His fastest lap of the race was a 1:17.565 on lap 18.
After the pit stop Montecalvo started his stint sixth in class and 16th overall, two laps down to the class leader, the No. 99, and one lap down to fifth in class, the No. 55. A few minutes later a full-course caution waved for Andrea Robertson and Dirk Mueller, who stopped in Turn 9.
Knapp brought Montecalvo in to top off his fuel under that yellow, which proved to be a very smart move. At the halfway point the field was still under the full-course caution and the No. 36 was now 12th overall and
sixth in class, one lap down to both fourth and fifth place, but Montecalvo had a full load of fuel and was set to go when the green waved again.
The team got fifth in class and was 10th overall with 1:38 remaining when Chapman Ducote had problems with the No. 89. Six minutes later the fourth-place car of Diaz pitted, and with 1:45 gone Montecalvo moved up to fourth in class. More importantly he was now only one lap down to the second- and third-place cars in class.
With 54 minutes remaining Montecalvo was still fourth but now he was only 58 seconds behind third, which was Wallace at the time. Five minutes later Wallace finally pitted, which vaulted Montecalvo into third place in class with 48 minutes remaining.
Two minutes later the full-course caution came out for Hines’ crash, and after the delay Genoa Racing’s podium finish was secure even though the team pitted one more time for fuel under that yellow with 42 minutes remaining.
Montecalvo’s fastest lap came on lap 74 when he did a 1:14.311.
“After the engine problem at Elkhart, Genoa Racing is ecstatic to finish on the podium today at Mosport,” Knapp said right after the race. “Our team and Green Earth Team Gunnar are quite happy with the collective results here, as Gunnar Jeannette has taken the lead in the driver championship in the LMPC class with his victory here today.”
“It was my first time at Mosport,” Montecalvo said Monday. “The track is a lot of fun, but there aren’t a lot of braking zones. It’s a big commitment track; you have to be smooth and try to have minimal mistakes because it’s very unforgiving.
“But for us, the whole week went great,” he added. “Neither Christian nor I had any real incidents. The Genoa Racing guys set up a great car. I think we were only about 0.5 of a second off the pole in qualifying.
“Christian did a great job in the race,” he continued. “The cautions helped us, but the big thing was that neither of us had an incident. It was important to have a clean race. We were already in third place when the red flag came out, so I think as long as I didn’t have an incident we would have had third locked up even if the race would have restarted. It was my first podium in the American Le Mans Series, and I hope we can do it again at the Petit Le Mans!”
You can also check our extensive Photo Coverage of the American Le Mans Series at Mosport by clicking HERE
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