Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and Shane van Gisbergen put in maximum miles at the wheel of the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing GTD Class Porsche 911 GT America at the Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. The annual test is in preparation for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship 52nd running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona Jan. 24-25.
The duo of MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.) and Keen (Charleston, SC) are reunited from their championship winning American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GTC championship in 2012. Joining the pair is Quebec Louis-Phillpe (LP) Dumoulin (Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada) who drives the WeatherTech Canada Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Canada series. Van Gisbergen is a star of the Australian V8 Supercars Series where he pilots the Tekno Motorsports Holden Commodore and hails from Auckland, New Zealand.
In the new setting of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the combined American Le Mans and GRAND-AM series’, the GTD field is the largest entry for the Rolex 24 with 28 cars. The WeatherTech Racing crew spent the weekend getting to know the new Porsche 911 GT America as well as the international driver line-up that will tackle 24 hours around the track known as the World Center of Racing.
“The test has gone really well this weekend,” MacNeil said. “The Porsche is all new this year so that brings a bit of learning curve. Right out of the box we had a loose car entering the corner, mid-corner and at the exit. Through our testing program, over really seven days to date, the car is really getting comfortable to drive fast and confidently. The competition in our class is really strong. With the combined series, the level of competition has doubled. There are a lot of cars on the track, so we will need to be cautious, yet have the pace.”
Keen, the 2009 Rolex Series GT Driver Champion, is happy with the car and the team following this weekend’s test.
“We have had a really great weekend of running,” Keen said. “We started this whole program when we got the car early and ran those days in November. We are still learning some things with this new WeatherTech Porsche. Yesterday we made great strides and really got it up underneath us and were able to turn some fast laps. We are still chipping away a little at the set-up. All of the drivers are getting good seat time and we have been competitive in each session and quickest in one yesterday. GTD is the biggest class out there and is going to be the most competitive. There are 12 911s on the entry, the most car count in the class and the Porsche is always competitive here at Daytona.”
Van Gisbergen got his first taste of running on NASCAR banking this weekend.
“It was crazy. When I took the car out for the first time and ran up on the high banking here at Daytona,” van Gisbergen said. “I have never raced on anything like that before. I was hanging on way too tight and had a little arm-pump after my first run. I had the prototype cars passing me around the outside, it was nuts. The Porsche has a little less power than my Holden Commodore, but it has better grip and handling, so it is really fun to drive. It is a trade off on a lot of things and I am going about 300K down the straight, so I am having fun. Another big change for me is constantly looking in the mirror for faster cars coming up on you. In V8 Supercars all of the cars a pretty equal so you are focused forward. You try to pass people and you have a prototype coming around you on the outside. I got a good handle on it during the day and then had to relearn my reference points during the night. I am the third tallest driver in the car, normally I have to compromise for the smaller guys, so that is pretty cool for me.”
Dumoulin has had a successful weekend at the wheel of the WeatherTech Porsche.
“Everything went very well this weekend,” Dumoulin said. “The WeatherTech Porsche has been very fast every session. We have been improving the car. The team is trying some new things and the Porsche just keeps getting better. Daytona is not that tricky of a track to drive, but you cannot get too comfortable. The braking zones are key to a good lap here. The Porsche has great brakes and you just have go deeper and deeper to get good lap times. Leh and Cooper are fast. Shane got in and went quick right away, so there is a good driver line-up in the car. The competition is very high in this GTD Class.”
Alex Job, team owner, is happy with the testing progress of the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche.
“We went through all of the steps of our testing program this weekend,” Job said. “The drivers all got a lot of laps and I think we have settled on a good baseline car set-up for when we come back here in two weeks for the race. LP has run with us before, but Shane is a newcomer to the series, our team and the track. He’s a true professional and was able to get up to speed in a hurry in the WeatherTech Porsche. Cooper and Leh did a job and we are looking to have a very successful weekend here in two weeks.”
Take a lap of Daytona International Speedway along side WeatherTech Racing driver Leh Keen. http://youtu.be/dmFqs3xQu7g
The new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will take to the track for the first event the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona, Jan. 25-26, 2014.