CORE AUTOSPORT Q&A: Frankie Montecalvo

CORE autosport’s young gun, Frankie Montecalvo, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the professional motorsport ranks – standing on the podium at Sebring a mere two years after his first-ever road race.

A protégé of fellow CORE star, Gunnar Jeannette, Montecalvo has handled the pressure of racing in the highly competitive LMPC class. Not only has he adapted to the ORECA prototype, he has the added pressure of being teammates with his boss – owner Jon Bennett.

His mentor Jeannette knows a thing or two about being a “young gun” – he was the youngest man to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he made his debut in 2000.

Jeannette and Montecalvo were teammates in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Series for the Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang squad last season.

That was the New Jersey native’s second season in the sport. He combined his Mustang efforts with a partial season in the IMSA Prototype Lites division – taking a win at Miller Motorsports Park – actually beating his future team boss Bennett to the line by only 0.170 of a second.

Montecalvo made his LMPC debut in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron at Mid-Ohio last season before joining CORE autosport for the 2011 season – kicking off his championship assault in second place with Bennett and former Champ Car racer Ryan Dalziel at Sebringjavascript:toggleEditor(‘field_storycontent_value’);.

Q: WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST RACE?
A:“My first race was a PBOC club race at Sebring in January 2009, aboard a BMW ST class Grand-Am Cup car.
“To go from there and end up on the podium at the Twelve Hours of Sebring two years later was certainly one of my most exciting experiences ever.
“It really didn’t sink in until after Sebring, but I’m certainly quite pleased with my progress and very grateful for everyone’s help along the way.”

Q: HOW DID YOU AND GUNNAR JEANNETTE FIRST MEET?
A: “Gunnar and I met through Christian Zugel.
“We both drove with him in LMPC last year.
“My parents have known Christian for quite some time through business. A few years ago, he was telling me about racing; and I told him about my background in dirt bikes and some drag racing experiences.
“He suggested I come out to one of his races and see what it was all about.
“So I went to the Petit Le Mans 2008, and there is where Gunnar and I met and instantly hit it off.”

Q: HOW BIG A HELP HAS GUNNAR BEEN IN YOUR CAREER?
A: “I certainly owe a lot to Gunnar and his family for all of their help so far.
“He has really taken me under his wing and helped me get to where I am today.
“We are both certainly very competitive and now push each other very hard.
“I suppose the score is 1-all so far this year. We finished in front of him at Sebring, but he and Ricardo (Gonzalez) beat us in Long Beach.”

Q: IS THERE ANY ADDITIONAL PRESSURE AT CORE AUTOSPORT NOW YOUR TEAMMATE IS ACTUALLY YOUR TEAM OWNER?
A: “I suppose you try to block that out when you are driving, but I certainly want to make sure I hand the car over in good condition – not just because Jon is my boss, but because he is my teammate.
“He doesn’t act like the boss over the race weekend – he just wants to be part of the team and one of the drivers out there trying to move the team forward.”

Q: THE CORE AUTOSPORT TEAM HAS BIG AMBITIONS FOR THE FUTURE, HOW BIG AN OPPORTUNITY DO YOU HAVE AS BEING ONE OF THEIR INITIAL DRIVERS?
A: “Jon certainly has a vision for the future and wants to be an active, successful racer and owner for many years to come.
“This has been an ideal opportunity for me, Gunnar and Ricardo. We would all love to stay and be a part of the team and contribute to the growth process.
“For me as a young driver I want to help build and grow this team—they are like family to me.”

Q: WHEN YOU MADE YOUR DEBUT AT SEBRING IN 2009, DID YOU HAVE DREAMS OF ONE DAY BEING ON THE PODIUM AT THE TWELVE HOUR?
A: “I can honestly say that thought was the furthest thing from my mind – there was no way I could picture that happening so quickly.
“The process of going from driving a BMW to handling an LMPC car was a big enough jump in itself.
“The support of my family, Gunnar, teammates, fans and friends has been a tremendous help to me along the way.
“I just hop into the driver’s seat and do the best job possible.
“Things have just fallen into place from there.”

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND AMBITIONS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE 2011 AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES SEASON?
A: “We’ve had a great start to the year and obviously we want to continue with a successful season. Jon and I didn’t have as good a weekend at Long Beach compared to Sebring due to an incident we had in qualifying.
“Jon had to work his way up through traffic before I got in the car, and we ended up fourth in class.
“It has certainly been a very competitive year, and we know our competition is tough.
“We are really enjoying the challenges, and I’ve fallen in love with the series and the sport–-that really kicked in when I first visited Petit Le Mans in 2008.
“Our aim is to do as well as we can, and I plan to continue to improve my performance. Every race is a great learning experience and hopefully we can get back on the podium and maybe earn another win or two.”

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