Rookie appearancesThe Dunlop 24H DUBAI has now become a well-established presence on the racing calendar. It has grown and grown in stature each year and is now recognized as the place to be in the northern winter. Each year brings new drivers to the race. In most cases they are already well-established stars on the international scene but are testing the waters here. Every last person has a pleasant smile about this race. While it is grueling and a true test of man, machine, and teamwork, the Dunlop 24H DUBAI is that rare mix, not often found in top level racing anymore. It combines professionalism, sportsmanship, hard work, and camaraderie in equal measures. All the new drivers comment upon this.
Among nearly a dozen American drivers here this year are a quartet making their rookie appearances at Dubai. Each is as enthusiastic as the next about their prospects. Shane Lewis is one of the most accomplished long-distance drivers from that side of the Atlantic. This will be his 33rd start in a 24 hour race. He has driven at Le Mans and also scored a fine third place in the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Indeed, Shane is a frequent visitor to Germany, almost a regular in that country’s VLN endurance series. As with most of the other Americans here, Lewis has run extensively in the two main North American sports car championships, Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series. For Shane this includes many driver in the top categories, such as being a regular in Daytona Prototypes during the mid-2000s and having finished second in class during ALMS’ 2010 season. Shane lives in Florida and is a protégé and neighbor of the ex-pat Brit and great endurance racing hero, Derek Bell. Like Bell before him, Shane is a much sought after racing coach in the American Southeast. When motor racing becomes just a little too boring, Shane likes to engage in professional rodeo bull riding. He is driving the Cor Euser entered Lotus at Dubai this weekend.
Gunnar Jeannette is one of the most recognized figures in American sports car racing. It is hard to believe that only a few short years ago—in 2000 that is, he was one of the youngest and most successful drivers on the scene both at home and abroad. Indeed at age 18, he became the youngest driver to record a finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since then he has competed at the French race five times while having started hundreds of races in the two main American series. This was highlighted by a joint class championship in the ALMS in 2011. Gunnar too enjoys other thrills. Skydiving had become just a little too normal for this young Florida native, so now BASE jumping is his new passion—look out Burj Dubai. But first he wants to notch a victory in the Ram Racing Ferrari.
If Shane Lewis is the protégé of English champion Derek Bell, then Frankie Montecalvo has similar relationship to Gunnar. The New Jersey native is now in his fifth season of driving in both professional and historic events. He has already finished many races with a Mustang in Grand-Am’s Continental Cup series and also in the IMSA Lites small prototype development championship. In 2011 he stepped up to the top level in ALMS and promptly recorded a second place at the Sebring 12 Hours. Here at Dubai he is at the wheel of the Perfection Racing Aston Martin.
European racing fans have often seen Eric Lux of Luxembourg race at various long-distance events and thus seeing that name on the entry list is not unusual. But this Eric Lux may have the same name but he is decidedly American and unrelated to that other fellow. “Our” Eric is another ALMS and Grand-Am veteran, and indeed shared the 2011 American Le Mans Series PC class championship with Gunnar. Here at Dubai he is driving the No. 81 Dragon Speed Audi.
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