Defending Pirelli World Challenge GTA Champion Frankie Montecalvo believes the month-long break between races will benefit his title chances, as the new DIME Racing team comes to grip with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and the competition in the class.
The 25-year-old New Jersey native, who started his year off with a podium finish in the 24 Hours of Dubai in January, endured a rough opening to the PWC season, with the team battling mechanical issues and and an ill-handling car, although still managing to collect valuable points to sit second in the class championship.
With the teething issues behind them, Montecalvo believes he’ll be able to take the fight for class wins, beginning with next weekend’s round on the streets of Long Beach, which kicks off another series of back-to-back events.
Sportscar365 caught up with Montecalvo to get his thoughts on the season to date, as well as his goal to move up to the highly competitive GT class.
How has the start of the season gone for you?
“The team is great. Everyone has been playing catch-up from what we started from. The break was great for us in getting things rebuilt on the car and fixing stuff that was delivered wrong.
“We’re going to be able to show our performance at Long Beach from where we’ve been. It’s been a little frustrating as a driver. I feel like last year, every time we rolled off, the car was great and we just improved with what we started with.
“This year, it’s been frustrating with the car not handling right and little things breaking. Going forward, I think the team is going to show how well they’ve built off the problems and continue with some more success.”
What’s been the biggest change for you this year?
“It’s not really been getting acclimated with the team; everyone’s made me feel right at home. What we’ve seen has been the difference in the tire.
“We used St. Petersburg almost as a test. The car wasn’t bad when we initially rolled out on a new tire, but we were constantly chasing the back-end of the car. We weren’t able to lean on the car.
“It was not very fun for a street course. We thought we’d be a little better out of the box. Right now we’re paying catch-up and hope to roll off strong.”
There’s some new entries in GTA for Long Beach. Does that excite you to see more competition?
“I was a bit disappointed with the entry at St. Pete. You’re always racing strong against every other GT entry but it was still tough.
“My goal is to earn the GT badge and move up. Having more GTA entries will be better to compare ourselves to.”
What are your prospects for Long Beach and Barber, one week later?
“Last year [at Long Beach] I feel practice went OK but we got taken out fairly early in the race. It was not very fun but we were lucky in that there wasn’t any major damage so we were able to go onto Barber.
“I feel, hopefully, with a little lower car count, and more experienced guys, it won’t be a showing like last year and we can go forward.
“Nobody wants to have a bad shunt because Barber is right around the corner [again]. That’s our goal. We need to build off what we’re learning with the car, stay out of trouble.
“I know Barber was a great track for us last year. A lot has changed since last year but we still want to go there with a clean car and have a good run.”
The team is set to take delivery of the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. Will you be driving that later this year or are you fully committed to the SLS AMG GT3 this season?
“I can’t say at this time. I’d really hope to be in the new car. Right now, as much as I know, we’ll be rolling off with the SLS.
“I’m crossing my fingers because I know the new car will be better. It may have some teething issues. But with some of the issues we’ve had with the SLS, just not being up to pace, I’d hope to move to the new car.”