On Tuesday, Alex Job Racing (AJR) announced that they will be switching from the Porsche 911 GT3 R to a new Audi R8 LMS GT3 for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. Driving the new Audi full-time will be longtime teammates and 2015 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. Frankie Montecalvo will race the Audi in the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races, while Audi’s Pierre Kaffer will join up for Daytona only.
Bell, who splits time between racing and working as an analyst on NBCSN’s Verizon IndyCar Series broadcasts, is happy to be back with AJR.
“It feels like coming home,” Bell said in the team’s official press release. “My first sports car team and my first sports car win with AJR at Sebring. I am so happy to be back. They are such a talented and experienced team that I am sure we will fall right back into the winning routine. I am looking forward to driving the Audi R8 LMS. Big thanks to everyone at Audi of America for helping us make this possible. It looks to be a very competitive and reliable piece.”
Traditionally, Alex Job Racing has been a Porsche team. However, 2017 will not be their first go with Audi. In 2013, AJR fielded one Audi R8 Grand-AM in Grand-AM’s GT class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With the lineup of Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke, the team managed to hold off additional Audis from APR Motorsport and Rum Bum Racing to win the GT class.
Tuesday’s announcement was the culmination of a rather difficult few months for AJR. Back in August, unhappiness with Balance of Performance (BoP) led the team (under pressure from WeatherTech CEO and part-time driver David MacNeil) to withdraw the No. 22 Porsche after Road America. The No. 23 Team Seattle entry with Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas continued for the rest of the season, finishing fifth in points. Afterwards, the team moved away from Porsche. Farnbacher has signed to race in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races for Riley Motorsports in their new Mercedes-AMG GT3. Riberas currently does not have a ride in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2017.
As noted, this will not be Bell and Sweedler’s first time racing for AJR. The duo drove for the team in the American Le Mans Series for two seasons (2012-2013) in three different cars. They started out in the GTC-class in a spec Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. With Von Moltke joining in, the trio won their class at Sebring.
At Long Beach that year, the team debuted a Lotus Evora in the GT-class. The team struggled to develop the new car, posting no top 5 finishes for the whole season. The duo’s best finish was a sixth at VIRginia International Raceway. 2013 saw AJR switch to a Ferrari 458 Italia GT2. With the Ferrari, the performances improved. The team started Road America from pole and finished a season-best fourth at Laguna Seca, but suffered two costly DNF’s.
Since the ALMS/Grand-AM merger, Bell and Sweedler have jumped around a bunch. 2014 saw the team win their class at the Rolex 24, only to find themselves out of work shortly afterwards when Scott Tucker shut down Level 5 Motorsports because of the then-burgeoning scandal surrounding Tucker’s payday loan schemes. AIM Autosport took over the No. 555 and ran it for the rest of the year, resulting in a second-place finish in points. The championship in 2015 came with Scuderia Corsa.
Last season was largely spent on the sidelines. Originally, the teammates signed to race full-time for O’Gara Motorsport in their No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The No. 11 showed a lot of speed at Daytona (teammate Richard Antinucci turned in the fastest lap of the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class). However, the team shut their doors before Sebring. Bell and Sweedler moved to Change Racing, where they were eliminated in an early crash at Sebring. The No. 11 only made one more start. After Laguna Seca in May, the No. 11 never raced again.