LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2017) – WeatherTech Racing drivers Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.) and Gunnar Jeannette (Salt Lake City, Utah) drove from last to first in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class to win the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
MacNeil, who was slated to start 13th in the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, actually started last in the GTD category because the team decided to change tires after yesterday’s qualifying. Given that starting position, combined with a very tight 1.968-mile street course, this meant that MacNeil and Jeannette would need some luck and a race solid strategy in order to win.
MacNeil got a great start and passed two GTD cars on the first lap just minutes after the green flag flew. This is when the first of five race cautions came out. On lap 10, the second caution came out for No. 2 DPi car. This is when the team decided to have MacNeil pit and put Jeannette in the car to drive the remainder of the 100-minute race. This was part of the team’s strategy. But, they would still need a little luck to go the distance on fuel
“Anytime you start dead last, it puts a lot of burden on you to perform extremely well and to pick up as many positions as possible, and as quickly and safely as possible,” MacNeil said. “On a street course like Long Beach, that’s a lot easier said than done. But, I just kept my head down and kept my eyes out of the mirrors – not worrying about people behind me. I just kept my focus forward, picking cars off and moving forward. We made a good call coming in just 25 minutes into the race. Gunnar took it from there.”
As the GTD cars began to cycle through their pit stops, Jeannette inherited the race lead on lap 29. One lap later the race’s fourth caution came out. At that point, the team knew it had to conserve fuel in order to have any shot of making it to the end without a splash of fuel. As lady luck would have it, the caution flew for the final time with 29 minutes remaining. At that point, the team knew they had a realistic shot at picking up their first win of the 2017 season. All Jeannette needed to do was to continue to put down fast, consistently clean laps and he did just that for the win.
“We knew the circumstances that were likely to happen for this race,” Jeannette said. “We knew that pitting early would be a gamble. If everything worked out for us caution-wise, we knew it would be the right gamble to make. With us starting at the back, it was going to be hard to win today not risking things. So, we just decided to do it.
“I got in the car and I was in fuel save mode. I cycled into the lead and was able to stay there. We had extra yellows. And, at that point when the final yellow came out, we knew we had made the fuel number we needed to. Then it was like, ‘OK cool. We can turn the power up and not have to worry about it.’ Luckily, we were quick enough to not really have to fight with anybody. It was an awesome job by our WeatherTech Racing guys. Our Mercedes-AMG did what we needed it to do.
“Long Beach and I have an awesome relationship. My father was born in Long Beach hospital. I’ve raced here four times and have won three out of the four. I’m super happy.”
The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship next travels to Austin, Texas May 4-6 for the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown.