DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Louis-Philippe Dumoulin, Shane van Gisbergen and new addition Shane Lewis are ready to put the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing GTD Class Porsche 911 GT America on the track for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship 52nd running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona Jan. 25-26.
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 team is looking to have a strong finish. Last year the WeatherTech Porsche was leading into the last hour of the event when they were forced to pit for a splash of gas rendering them from leaders to sixth place finishers.
"The 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be interesting," MacNeil said. "With everything being new, a new class structure, new cars, new rules, a new series, it's going to be very interesting to see how all the different cars do against one another. Hopefully IMSA did their homework when they wrote the rule book. All of the testing is done, but this weekend we will see what each car can actually do. It will be interesting. We had a very good test. We were at the top, or very close to the top each practice session. Porsche is always a good car at Daytona. I am looking forward to having a strong a weekend and good result come Sunday afternoon."
Keen, the 2009 and 2011 Rolex Series GT Driver Champion, is ready for the most competitive 24 he has run to date.
"I've never been to a Roar where there was so much energy," Keen said. "That really was just a taste of what the 24-hour weekend will be like. That energy won't only spread through the infield and paddock but onto the racetrack as well. That's what I'm really looking forward to. Every year the bar is raised at the 24 and it's pretty clear this year that it will be set to a new standard. The quality of cars and teams in the paddock is arguably the best and most competitive it has ever been in the history of the race. During the race, I prefer the sleep method over the massage and other styles the drivers use. Some of the drivers simply can't sleep because they are so wound up. I prefer to start resting as soon as I can and try to rest as often as possible. Eat, sleep and drive is my routine. These days you need to be your best on Sunday afternoon, so it's that much more challenging. I am most looking forward to being with Alex in the WeatherTech car. I have been on podium in the two endurance races that I ran with the team in ALMS. Winning Sebring and second at Petit. So now I have an opportunity to win Daytona with him. I couldn't ask for a better team and car with the WeatherTech Porsche."
Van Gisbergen is ready to tackle his first 24-hour race this weekend.
"I've never done a race for 24 hours before," van Gisbergen said. "My co-drivers are very experienced, so I will be getting as much advice as possible for the best way to approach the race to keep fresh and ready for each stint. My goals are pretty simple, reach the finish and hopefully with a good result. I have watched the race the last two years from home and it's such an awesome race, I can't wait to be a part of it. I'm not sure how the others were pushing at the test, but it felt pretty competitive across the class. The Weathertech Porsche was always in the front few of the field. It's cool racing against cars with all different strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately achieving the same lap time. The race should be exciting."
Lewis was a late add. The team was looking for another driver with a lot of Daytona experience and Lewis fits the bill.
"This will be my 17th running of the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona and I don't believe I have ever seen a GT class this competitive," Lewis said. "A 28-car field and everyone is a solid contender. With the new sanctioning body in place and new rules for GT, it has made the manufactures and teams step up their game to an all-time high. It will take everything a team has to even get to the podium, let alone the win. As a driver you are up early on race morning with drivers meetings, team meetings, autograph session and prerace festivities. You are over half-way through the day and the race hasn't even started yet! The race starts at 2:10 p.m. in the afternoon, you can't rest until after your first stint as the adrenaline is flowing and you want to get out there. But after all of that it's so important to find some way to rest. It's not easy because you can never get away from the sound of the cars inside of the speedway. You are always wondering if the quiet you hear from the full course yellow is your team or what's happening. I find Daytona the hardest race to recuperate in between stints of any 24 race I do. I try to sleep, but it's almost impossible. It's going to be a very big challenge. I have never even sat in the new 991 car before. That car in the hands of Alex Job means it will be prepared the best any Porsche can be. The team is counting on me to get up to speed quickly. I will be lucky to get one session in before the race starts. Huge pressure, but fortunately I have great team and teammates. They want to do well as a team so helping each other is a goal for us all. I can't wait to get to the speedway and look over data, talk to my team drivers, work with Greg Fordahl (team engineer) before I get out for the first time."
Alex Job, team owner, is has the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche team for the Rolex 24.
"After a really good test, where we ended up fastest at the end of the last practice we wanted to strengthen the team even more," Job said. "We added Shane Lewis to the team. He has a lot of miles around Daytona and he is as steady as they come at this track. He gives us another really strong and experienced driver with Leh. I think this gives us the best shot at doing well this weekend. Cooper ran great laps at the test and is always steady. Shane van Gisbergen was a pleasant surprise his first time out. LP will also be ready for us on the weekend. I feel good about our chances. We were close last year with the WeatherTech Porsche, we should be one of the cars to beat."