Cooper MacNeil and the WeatherTech Racing team have engaged the services of Porsche Motorsport for its next turn in the racing series it sponsors. MacNeil will reunite with Germany’s Proton Competition team, which fielded an entry for the American at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, and pilot a Porsche 911 RSR that comes with factory support and co-drivers.
The No. 79 Porsche will pose the only known full-season challenge to Corvette in IMSA’s GT Le Mans category, and will do so with the only non-pro driver in the class. MacNeil will have a rotating cast of teammates, with Gianmaria Bruni, Kevin Estre, and Richard Lietz joining in for the Rolex 24 At Daytona before the three take turns partnering with the Illinois native at the remaining rounds.
#IMSA – @RaceWeatherTech will move up to the @IMSA #GTLM class with the #Porsche #911RSR and customer team @ProtonRacing for the 2021 season. @CooperMacNeil will be joined by @RichardLietz, @kevinestre and @GianmariaBruni for the 24-hour race at @DAYTONA pic.twitter.com/Bz9VxDaGgC
— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) January 6, 2021
“We have put a lot of thought into this move,” MacNeil said. “I have raced against this level of competition at Le Mans twice, most recently this year, and have felt comfortable with the added performance of the car. We are going back to running a Porsche, and I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the 911 RSR. It will be more pressure on me as a driver, but I am welcoming the added effort it is going to take to run GTLM in 2021.
“We raced with Christian at Le Mans in 2016, so we have an on-track history. I am looking forward to running the Rolex 24 with Richard, Kevin and Gimmi. Proton has a great endurance racing history, and Porsche is always competitive at Daytona.”
The Christian Ried-owned Proton team will field its first season-long effort in the U.S. Having previously announced a one-race appearance at the Rolex 24 At Daytona using an ex-IMSA Porsche GT Team 911 RSR, it’s believed Proton will focus solely on the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche for the season opener.
“We have been looking at entering the IMSA WeatherTech Championship for a few years,” Ried said. “We just didn’t feel like the time was right until now. With the factory effort leaving, that left a void for Porsche in GTLM. We were able to get together with David and Cooper to keep the Porsche brand racing at the top level of GT competition in IMSA. I am looking forward to the challenge and am excited to add IMSA to our racing schedule in 2021.”