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MONTECALVO: Becoming the Team Veteran

Vasser Sullivan driver Frankie Montecalvo files his first Sportscar365 column, reflecting on Daytona and looking ahead to Sebring…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

I have high expectations rolling into a third consecutive season with Vasser Sullivan Racing, driving the Lexus RC F GT3.

I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this program and building off of each year. The whole team just gets stronger and stronger.

It’s really nice to come into a season and know the car and know what you need to do and continue to build on those little things.

It’s not one thing in particular that we have to fix to make us faster or make us a better team. It’s just getting everything together and trying to be perfect to chase that great season.

The Rolex 24 was an amazing kick-off to the season for the Vasser Sullivan team.

To have the start like we did out of the box in the beginning of the race is never easy, but everything just kind of unfolded to be leading the race.

Unfortunately, we had a small issue with the IMSA transponder during our first stint and were forced to pit, which made us fall a few laps down. The team did a phenomenal job just getting back those laps and continuing to push.

We continued to fight and gained those laps back, but unfortunately it just really wasn’t our race.

You need everything to go right in a 24-hour race. Even though we didn’t finish where we would’ve liked, we had great team preparation at Daytona with new guys on the timing stand, new drivers and a new pit crew that had phenomenal stops. It was a great start to a long season.

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

I’ve been very busy since we competed in Daytona. There’s been no time for vacation as I’ve been working quite a bit at Bayshore Recycling and tested at Sebring a few weeks ago.

We also announced some exciting news personally as my wife, Paige, and I are expecting our first child this summer.

To hear the news of fatherhood is an exciting step in my life. I’m very excited about it and maybe one day will get a little co-driver to race along with me!

I’m looking forward to getting the season started again at Sebring and to sharing the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 with my new full-time teammate Zach Veach.

This year is definitely a transition for me going from being one of the youngest guys in the car to now being the oldest driver on the Vasser Sullivan team!

My whole driving career I’ve always been one of the younger drivers, but I can now use the experience I’ve gained over my years in sports car racing to teach the younger guys with less experience what I know from the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.

Photo: Frankie Montecalvo Facebook

Zach is a great driver and has all of the fundamentals to be successful in sports car racing.

It’s going to be a little bit of a transition from an IndyCar into a sports car and the more seat time he gets in the car, the better he’s going to be and the more confidence he’s going to have driving the Lexus RC F GT3.

There are also so many different procedures and rules in this series so it will take some time to get used to that and I’m looking forward to success together this season.

As we head into the 12 Hours of Sebring, the test we did a few weeks ago was very helpful.

It’s crazy how you have a full day of testing and you think, ‘We’re going to have so much track time.’ But, when you split it between four drivers and you have to make setup changes, come into the pits, a lunch break and before you know it it’s 10 o’clock and time to stop.

Everyone utilized their time to the last second and we learned a lot. Compared to Daytona, we actually have very limited track time at Sebring, so this test was really good to get some time behind the wheel.

The 12 Hours of Sebring always seems to be a tougher race than the Rolex 24 at Daytona, even though it’s half the time.

Photo: Phil Abbott/IMSA

It’s harder on the car and it’s harder on the driver. It’s quite warm and humid in the middle of Florida during this time of the year, too. To get out there and be super-hot in the car and bouncing around, it really starts to take a toll on your body.

It’s also mentally challenging because you really have to focus on some of the sections of the track and then mix in traffic and changing conditions.

At nighttime, everything starts to speed up and you start the transition from a 12-hour race to a sprint. You really have to fight to the end.

Sebring is also very tough on the race cars. The old, bumpy surface of the track can really take a toll on the suspension and the brakes. There’s a little bit of everything with high-speed corners and low speed corners so it really starts to wear down everything after 12 hours on the track.

Sebring is built for the RC F GT3 and I think we’ve shown that in the past in the Sebring sprint race.

The Lexus operates well and it’s a blast to drive there. The team has really started to get a hold on the car setup for the longer races.

We know we have the pace, but we have to figure out how to do it for 12 hours. I’ve never been on the top step of the podium at Sebring, and this is one I’d really like to win. We know what we need to do now, and it’s time to execute it this weekend!

Frankie Montecalvo is a championship-winning sports car driver, competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Vasser Sullivan Racing and Lexus.

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