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IMSA Daytona 24 Hours

“Proper send-off” for MacNeil after Rolex 24 win in GTD Pro

Jules Gounon says that winning at Daytona was an appropriate way for co-driver Cooper MacNeil to retire from racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

#79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon, Maro Engel and Frank Kelleher

The WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition Mercedes AMG GT3 won the class by 3.9sec after an absorbing three-way fight in the final hours with the Corvette Racing C8.R and the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F. The team’s full-timers Gounon and Daniel Juncadella were accompanied by Maro Engel and MacNeil, and between them, the quartet led 229 of the 729 laps that their car completed.

MacNeil has announced that he is now hanging up his helmet to focus on the WeatherTech business commitments. He retires with 12 IMSA wins to his name, including three in Petit Le Mans, one at the Sebring 12 Hours and finally the Rolex 24.

Said MacNeil, “Before this race, my greatest accomplishment in racing was finishing second at Le Mans last year. To finish my career in IMSA with a win at Daytona… you can’t ask for more.

“I couldn’t have done it without my dad (David MacNeil), WeatherTech and Christian Ried and his Proton team. Mercedes gave us three of their best drivers. They build a great car that was fast and fair. It was us, Corvette and Lexus for the last fourth of the race.

“You have to have all of the elements to win here, car, drivers, support, teamwork and fast drivers. We had all of that today.”

The only setbacks for the team over the 24 hours were two pitlane penalties, one for spinning the rear wheels while the car was on its jacks, the other for running over an air hose.

Said Gounon: “To win for David and Cooper and WeatherTech is a privilege. I think it was Cooper’s last race in IMSA, so this is a proper send-off.

“You need to be the best on the track and in the pits to win this race and we were, over the 24 hours. Cooper, Maro, and Dani all drove great, and I had a good day myself. I think tonight we can celebrate with something nice on our wrist.”

Engel, who raced the closing stints, thanked his “awesome teammates” and said:

“The whole WeatherTech Racing/Proton team, together with Mercedes, gave us all of the tools to win today. At the end it was a dog fight out there, especially with those yellows which is what you don’t want to see when you are leading.”

Fulltimer Juncadella was naturally also elated by the strong points situation. Because the car was leading at quarter, half and three-quarter distance, it gives the WeatherTech/Proton team a very strong start for its bid to win the Michelin Endurance Cup as well as the overall GTD Pro championship.

“To start the year like this with a bang is great!” exclaimed Juncadella. “I am thankful to the MacNeil family for a great effort and support. I love racing here and starting the year like this is great.

“We scored all the points available – the six-hour, 12-hour, and 18-hour endurance points and the overall win. Just great!”

 

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

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