WeatherTech Racing drivers Cooper MacNeil (Hindsdale, Ill.), Kevin Estre (France), Richard Lietz (Austria), and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) will start the No.79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche RSR from the second row in GTLM for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 At Daytona on Saturday.
The team had a very strong run in the new for 2021 IMSA Motul Pole Award 100-minute qualifying race last Sunday. MacNeil and Estre combined to lead some of the race, ultimately finishing in third place.
The four drivers took the three preparation days this past weekend to get familiar with each other and the Proton Competition team that is new to the IMSA WeatherTech Championship this year. MacNeil is also learning the nuances of the Porsche RSR having moved up to GTLM from the GTD class for this season.
“I have to admit I was a little nervous getting into the Porsche RSR last Friday,” MacNeil said. “The car has more power, more downforce, and more tire than the GT3 car- and no ABS. Surprisingly, it is quite predictable on the handling side and the extra power really helps in traffic. Kevin, Gimmi, and Richard have been really helpful getting me up to speed. I definitely dove into the deep end, learning a new RSR in all weather conditions. Qualifying for the (qualifying) race was damp and we were on slick tires, so that was interesting. Then the qualifying race started in the rain which was quite tricky.
“This will be my 11th time competing in the Rolex 24 hours. If there is anything that I’ve learned, it is anything can happen. You have to drive consistently quick laps, be very careful in traffic, and keep it on the track. Add to that no penalties in pit lane and no mechanical issues. If we can do all of those things and be on the lead lap at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon, we will be in the fight for the win.”
“It is tough to say how the race will go,” Estre said. “It was raining in the qualifying race and all of the GTLM cars were far apart on the track, so it is difficult to judge where we stand. P3 in the qualifying race is a good result for us. The car had good balance with no technical issues. I am hopeful for a good result this weekend.”
“It is very hard to say how the race will go,” Bruni said. “It is tough to get a clear read of our rivals because of the track conditions and different strategies in the qualifying race. We have a good package. The team has worked hard this week preparing everything. If we have a good clean race, we will for sure be up there on Sunday.”
“We have a solid Porsche for the race,” Lietz said. “We have a good team in Proton Competition, good drivers, and everything we need to have a good race. For sure there will be a lot of crazy things happening on the track. We need to avoid these and try for the podium.”
The 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will kick-off with the 59th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona season opening race, January 30-31.