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Townsend Bell, Frankie Montecalvo pair up for 2019 IMSA championship run

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Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo will race full-time for AIM Vasser Sullivan (AVS) in 2019 in pursuit of an IMSA Weathertech Sports Car championship.

They will pair up in of the two Lexus RC F GT3 race cars that will be campaigned in 2019. In his last full season of 2015, Bell won the IMSA GTD championship.

“This is a great paring of drivers,” said car owner Jimmy Vasser at IMSA.com. “They know each other and they know what it takes to be successful.”

Montecalvo has seven podium finishes in 32 combined starts in the Weathertech and American Le Mans series.

“I’m thrilled to have a chance to go after another IMSA GTD Championship with Frankie,” said Bell. “We’ve had some partial seasons the last few years and the stars aligned to make this happen.

“My best Indy 500 finish came while driving for Jimmy Vasser and I’ve always admired the way he runs the team and guides the ship. The fact that AIM and Ian Willis are also involved makes this feel like one big family get together. Ian led us to a Daytona 24 win in 2014 and the NAEC Championship. I’m looking forward to turning some laps soon in the Lexus RCF GT3. It’s a race winning, pole sitting car and it’s nice to have that confidence heading into a new season.”

Bell made five starts last year with a pair of fifth-place finishes to bracket the season in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Preparations for the race include a tire test: “We have tire test coming up soon,” Bell told NBC Sports. “I’m looking forward to testing on the Michelins with the car. Then it’s the usual physical conditioning and simulator work to get ready for the longest race of the year at Daytona.”

“I could not be happier joining AIM Vasser Sullivan for the 2019 IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship season,” said Montecalvo. “In 2017, I raced with AIM and had some success in the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint X. … We should have a very competitive team this year. Co-driving with Townsend, I feel AVS has a real shot at competing for a championship. I’m looking forward to heading to Daytona to start off the 2019 season!”

Bell and Montecalvo will join Jack Hawksworth at AVS. Hawksworth’s co-driver has not yet been announced.

The complete IMSA season can be seen on the NBC family of networks beginning with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona, January 4 – 6, 2019.

IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: Why Sebring is so special to Bobby Rahal

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Bobby Rahal has driven in some of the biggest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 Hours and, of course, winning the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and in 2004 as a team owner.

But winning the 12 Hours of Sebring two years in a row (1987 and 1988), Rahal feels, is right up there in terms of his greatest accomplishments as a race car driver.

As IMSA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahal reflected on what racing at Sebring International Raceway has meant to him:

“To me, Sebring is the ultimate endurance race. Not as long as Daytona or Le Mans, but the demands put on a car and driver at Sebring are highly unusual.

“My father raced at Sebring in the late 60’s. To win that race two years in a row really meant something to me.

“While we’ve won a lot of other races, we’ve won just about everywhere, you name it. But for me personally, winning at Sebring those two years in a row was very special.”

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