Genoa Racing finished fifth in the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) class in Saturday's Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda2 at Road Atlanta, completing 307 laps in the 1,000-mile/9-hour-and-10-minute race. That was just four laps shy of the number...
Genoa Racing finished fifth in the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) class in Saturday's Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda2 at Road Atlanta, completing 307 laps in the 1,000-mile/9-hour-and-10-minute race. That was just four laps shy of the number of laps that would have made the podium, but the top-five finish still helped the Zionsville, Ind.-based team to finish third unofficially in the class's point standings for the year.
Officially 124,200 people attended the season finale for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron during practice, qualifying and the race, which was a new record. The 13th annual event was also covered live on SPEED.
The first goal of any endurance race is to finish, and Genoa Racing accomplished that even though it had to battle back from an accident that forced it to spend about an hour and a quarter behind the wall to make repairs. It was not the only team to run into difficulties by any means, as there were nine full-course cautions. Genoa Racing's incident was not one of them, however.
The team's all-American driver line-up consisted of 19-year-old Frankie Montecalvo of Highlands, N.J.; 27-year-old Alex Figge of Denver and 22-year-old Eric Lux of Williamsville, N.Y. Montecalvo and Lux were making their first start in this particular event, and Figge was making his second start. Lux and Figge were also making their first start with Genoa Racing.
The team's bright-green Oreca FLM09 No. 36 promoted the sponsors of its sister car, the Green Earth Team Gunnar No. 99 - G-Oil, Bayshore Recycling and the Zais Group - as well as Lux's sponsor, the Monticello Motor Club.
Montecalvo qualified fourth in class and 14th overall on Friday with a time of 1:16.250 for the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course. He was up to second in class by the one-hour mark of the race, and he was third in class when he turned the car over to Figge about one hour and 25 minutes into the event.
About 13 minutes later trouble struck. In trying to avoid a slower car Figge backed the car into a tire wall off Turn 7, damaging the left-rear bodywork. When he pitted for repairs the crew quickly realized the damage was more extensive than they first thought, and they were forced to take the car back to the transporter for more repairs, including welding the gearbox, replacing the rear-wing's uprights and repairing the muffler and exhaust. Figge returned to the fray about an hour and 15 minutes later but by then the car was sixth in class, 37th overall, and 32 laps down to the class leader.
Figge drove for about another hour after the repairs were completed and then turned the car over to Lux. The latter drove for the next three and a half hours, setting the car's fastest race lap in the process when he turned a 1:17.582 on lap 136. About five hours and 36 minutes into the race Lux had a minor off-and-on-course incident in Turn 5, but his main challenge during his stint was an errant water bottle floating around near his feet.
With six hours and 48 minutes gone the team was still fifth in class, but other teams had experienced problems too and now it was only two laps behind fourth place and 17 laps behind third place in class.
Most American Le Mans Series races are two hours and 45 minutes long. With that time left in the 10-hour maximum distance the third-, fourth- and fifth-place LMPC cars were all on the same lap, having completed 225 circuits. Genoa's No. 36 was still fifth, but it was going full-steam ahead.
Montecalvo drove the last hour and a half without any incidents but the gap was too great and the team finished fifth in class and 35th overall, three laps behind the fourth-place car.
Post-race quotes follow:
Frankie Montecalvo: "I'm definitely happy the team got the car back together so we could give it a go.
"The only other time I've driven a race car at night was in the night practice here on Thursday. It's totally different at night, and I was still trying to get used to it.
"At the end the car didn't have much grip but it was still very drivable.
"I didn't have any incidents; it was a very clean race for me, luckily."
Alex Figge: "I caught a tire wall in Turn 7 trying to get around a slower car. It was just a mistake, but I feel terrible.
"It just wasn't my day. The team was awesome and got the car back together. They didn't deserve me backing it into the wall. We'll try again next time."
Eric Lux: "The on-off wasn't anything; it was just over the grass and back on.
"The team really worked hard and all the drivers did a great job.
"Frankie did a tremendous job despite a pretty big learning curve. We fought back, and the car was a pleasure to drive.
"I did a three-and-a-half-hour stint. Even though I was driving when the sun was setting, it really wasn't a problem. I think my experience in other endurance races really helped out.
"This crew is so professional! It was a pleasure to race with them, and I hope to drive for them again. I have to thank the team, Monticello Motor Club and the other sponsors: G-Oil, Bayshore Recycling and the Zais Group."