Cooper MacNeil really wants that Rolex. He’s won Ferrari Challenge titles, he’s won the 12 Hours of Sebring, he’s been on the podium for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and even has an SCCA National Championship to his name. But a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory has eluded him. In an effort to rectify that, WeatherTech Racing has brought two different cars to the Rolex 24 for the GTD Pro class, and he’s driving both of them.
“I finished second here before and come close to winning it multiple times. But I have yet to get on the top of the podium here, which is one of the last things that that I’d like to accomplish in motorsports.,” MacNeil said.
MacNeil will drive the No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3R with Julien Andlauer, Matteo Cairoli and Alessio Picariello; and pilot the No. 97 Mercedes-AMG with Daniel Juncadella, Maro Engel and Jules Gounon. The quiver of two different makes within the same team may seem an odd choice, but in a Balance of Performance homologated class, there can be cases where one car is better at a given track. So far at Daytona, the Porsches and Mercedes-AMGs seem closely matched and both capable of victory.
“Hopefully, one of the two — obviously, ideally, both would be nice but at least one of the two has a decent BOP and is in contention for the win at the end of the race. With how many GT cars we see here this weekend — forget GTD Pro and GTD being separate classes — there are so many GT3 cars that are roughly all the same speed, so it’s going to be a busy, busy race that I think is going to be one of attrition. Just staying out of trouble, staying on the racetrack, and keeping the car clean is going to be a feat of its own, and then fighting for a win at the end of the race will be will be a whole other task. But I think we have some really good drivers in the cars, some factory guys on both sides, Mercedes and Porsche. I think I think we have a good shot at fighting for a win at the end.”
The trick for MacNeil, who has to spend two hours and 15 minutes in each car minimum, is going to be being conscious of which car he’s in in terms of the differences in handling and the controls.
“They definitely handle and drive a lot differently,” he explains. “But luckily, I’ve got a fair amount of seat time in both the GT3R and the Mercedes. And we’ve a few days here to get me more seat time and, and a little bit of running next week before the race. I know the track, but it’s just about getting comfortable driving both cars. And all of the functions on the steering wheel on the dash are different between the two, so just remembering which car I’m in at any given time is going to be crucial.”