The American drivers, No. 53 Ram Racing Ferrari 458 Italia in the LM GTE class, race for the fifth and final time this weekend.
Keasbey, NJ – As the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) draws to a close, Frankie Montecalvo and Gunnar Jeannette have two goals heading into this weekend’s season finale race at Circuit Paul Ricard – return to the podium and improve their position in the drivers’ standings.
Situated at Le Castellet, nearly 25 miles north east of Marsellie, France, Circuit Paul Ricard has several characteristics that make it challenging and one of the most unique tracks in Europe. The circuit has one of the longest straightaways, just over one mile in length (1.8km), is flat and has the unique runoff areas known as the Blue Zone and Red Zone. When it was built in the 1960s, the runoff areas were comprised of asphalt and tungsten versus the commonly used gravel traps.
So far this season, Montecalvo and Jeannette have earned three third place finishes (Silverstone, Imola, Red Bull Ring) and one sixth place finish (Hungary). The duo looks to return to their podium finishing ways this weekend and improve their ranking in the drivers’ championship points standings. They sit fourth overall, two points out of third and 12 out of second in LMGTE drivers’ standings. Ram Racing drivers Johnny Mowlem and Matt Griffin lead the LMGTE division.
The five-round ELMS schedule includes a series of past and present Formula 1 venues in England (Silverstone) Italy (Imola), Austria (Red Bull Ring), Hungary (Hungaronring) and France (Paul Ricard).
The duo will first practice the No. 53 Ferrari on Friday, September 27. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning. Green flag for the Three Hours of Circuit Paul Ricard is on Saturday, September 28 at 10:30 a.m. (ET)
Frankie Montecalvo: “This is going to be a great race and I’m excited. It is definitely coming down to be a nail biter. We’re fourth in the championship right now. Our sixth place finish at Hungary kind of hurt us a little bit, but I’m looking forward to this weekend.
“Paul Ricard is a track that we’ve been to before and tested. That gives us an opportunity to roll off with a little more knowledge at the track and which way it goes around instead of rolling off like every other track we’ve been to this year and have to learn our way around for the first session.
It will be a little bit easier to shake the rust off and get back to speed. Since it has only been about a week and a half since our last race, it’s not like we’ve been out of the car for a month this time. This week is a little bit easier to get back into the swing of things.
“It is a really cool track and very high speed. I think it is one of the longest straightaways that we’ve raced on in the ELMS. It has a lot of cool and technical sections as well.
This track is challenging too because there’s a lot of runoff, so can get greedy and use it, but there’s also not a lot of reference points on the track. This track is very wide open. It is almost like Salt Lake where you need to remember where you are because you can get lost on the track.
“I really want to move up in the points and see where we end up in the championship points. I’m pushing for finishing as high as possible in the race and the standings.”
Gunnar Jeannette: “I’m really excited to get back to the ELMS competition, even though it is the last round. I’m not excited that our season is almost over. I am looking forward to finally get to a track where Frankie and I have both driven, which is going to be the first one this season. It is a place that we tested the car. I’m definitely looking forward to going to a track where we have some familiarity.
“Paul Ricard is going to be good for the Ferrari and hopefully it will be a little bit sunnier than the Hungary race. Paul Ricard is going to be a good bit different as opposed to the other circuits that we’ve raced on more recently in that we have a very long straightaway. We’ll be taking a significant amount of downforce off the car. I think the Ferrari tends to handle that pretty well.
It won’t be in full Le Mans spec, but I know that even in full Le Mans the car still handles very well. From what we did in testing in March, I think we have a pretty good setup for the car to start with. It is nice to know what you’re getting yourself into before the start of the race weekend compared to everything else that we’ve done so far this season.
“Our confidence level is a little bit higher this weekend. Going into the final round at a track that we’ve both tested on is a bonus. Frankie and I are fourth in the championship and our Ram Racing teammates are first.
It is going to take a good race from us and some bad luck from our competition. We’re looking for a turn of fortune and we want to end our season on a high note and hopefully our best finish of the year.”