Frankie Montecalvo: 2011 season Q&A, always looking for improvement
ROCK HILL, SC, Thursday, November 17, 2011: Young gun Frankie Montecalvo is coming off of a great first year in the American Le Mans Series, driving for 2011 LMPC team champions CORE autosport and taking the second spot in the 2011 LMPC driver championship with co-driver and team principal Jon Bennett.
Aboard the #05 Bayshore Recycling / Composite Resources ORECA FLM09, Montecalvo and Bennett racked up four podium spots in nine races, with second-place finishes at their first-ever race at Sebring (with endurance co-driver Ryan Dalziel) and at Mosport, behind the sister #06 car; and third place finishes at Road America and the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix.
The near-21 year old New Jersey native only began his interest in sports car racing when family friend Christian Zugel brought him to the 2008 Petit Le Mans. Growing up on a steady diet of motorcross and ATV racing, as well as drag racing, the ALMS event was quite a change for the young man and he knew that his life was going to take a different direction than originally planned.
Another introduction by Zugel to Montecalvo was to sports car stalwart Gunnar Jeannette and the entire Jeannette family. Like Jeannette, Montecalvo is an unabashed thrill-seeker, and a friendship quickly emerged, as did Jeannette’s role of driver coach to the new driver. Montecalvo is even doing some driver instructing himself at Miller Motorsports Park. A full biography is available here.
Recently Montecalvo kicked off some off-season testing for the CORE autosport team and was able to sit down and discuss his first full ALMS season.
Q: What did you think of your time with CORE autosport in 2011?
FM: “I’ve got to give my co-driver Jon Bennett and team manager Morgan Brady a lot of credit for what they’ve accomplished in such a short time. We started off at Sebring this year and we weren’t sure how it was going to go, but as each race happened I felt like the team was growing and growing.
“I want to congratulate Jon and Morgan, as well as all the team members, for what they’ve done this year to get the team championship and a one-two in the driver championships. It was great to be a part of.”
Q: Talk about how you feel about your driving performance in 2011:
FM: “I did OK, but I’m really not happy about it. I want to keep driving and learning, to get better and better.
“In 2010 I drove in multiple series and did about 20-something races that year. I was very busy, but the more I drove the better I did. In 2011 it was a little harder to stay sharp because of the time between some of the races, but I did get better, especially in the LMPC car.”
Q: So what are you doing during the off-season?
FM: “I know I can get better in 2012 so my main focus in the offseason is to keep driving whatever I can – vintage cars, karts, you name it – to keep my skills up and learn more.
“First thing I did when I got back home from Petit was to head out to Rennsport to spend time with the Jeannettes and Christian Zugel. Talk about some incredible cars and a lot of fun.
“As soon as that was over it was off to Miller Motorsports Park to give some driver instruction. Instructing has definitely helped me – I learn about myself as I’m teaching other people how to drive and when I get out there on the track I criticize myself the same way I do with other people.
“Also, instructing helps reinforce the basic concepts of performance driving, which really don’t change no matter what level you’re at. It’s like having a refresher course every day!
“Unfortunately the fall instructing season in Utah is very short, so that ended in a couple of weeks and Morgan [Brady, CORE autosport team manager] invited me to do some testing for the team. I’m always up for free track time and working with the guys however I can, especially because I want to be on that top spot in 2012. ”
Q: Where will you be spending your time in the off-season?
FM: “Most of the time I’ll be back home in New Jersey. I have a lot of things to take care of there with my family business and training for next season. I also hope to get my kart ready and ship it down to Florida. After the new year Gunnar and I are probably going to spend some time at his parent’s place in Florida and get as much karting in before Sebring. So I’ll kart and try to run as many cars as I can if they’re available, just to stay sharp and keep up my skills.
“I’m also going to be doing a lot of physical training and I like to mix it up a bit. I do go to the gym, but also mountain bike and ride my dirtbike a lot. Something that I was very much into before racing and only have done a little bit lately is mixed martial arts training. It’s just like racing in that it’s so physical but you’ve got to think the entire time. Only problem with MMA is that you can get hurt – I think I broke my knuckle a few weeks ago, which is not fun.
“Truth is, I don’t want off-time, other than the holidays.”
Q: Do you have any projects that you’re working on outside of racing?
FM: “I work with my parents in their business (Bayshore Recycling). I even have a little shop on the grounds which I’m finishing out. I’m also planning on building a rally car – a Mitsubishi Evo – to run around in. Those cars are great for practice because car control is vital to stay out of the bushes.
“I also love building my own toys. I’ve built drag racing muscle cars, a drag racing Evo, dirtbikes, quads, jetskis – generally anything that’s fast enough to do something stupid on. So may end up with a few projects if I have any down time. ”
Q: What’s it like working with Gunnar Jeannette as a coach?
FM: “Well Gunnar and I really jumped into the deep end. He really pushes me to the limits and has been a great coach. His whole family took me in and has done so much for me that I can’t thank them enough.
“I remember our first run together in 2009 in a BMW GS car. It was at Sebring and there were a ton of GT cars out there, fast and slow. I’d never been to the track and never been in traffic before – what a surprise it was when some of the bigger cars would be coming at you 40 mph faster. That was quite a learning experience!”
Q: So is being a professional race car driver what you want to do with your life?
FM: “Yes, this is what I want to do and I couldn’t see it any other way. I didn’t start out that young in racing, so I’m trying to hit it hard and make a splash.”
Q: Is there any particular type of racing or cars you would like to try?
FM: “I love sports car racing and I’m really enjoying my time in LMPC right now, but I’d love to drive Le Mans. What a great race. At this point I’d be willing to drive just about any type of race car, even open-wheel, and in sports cars I do love the prototype / downforce cars, but I definitely want to try out a GT car. They have some great races and the cars are pretty amazing.”