BOLINGBROOK, ILL., (Jan. 23, 2017) - WeatherTech Racing is ready for the 56th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona and to get the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship underway this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
Drivers Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, ILL.), Alessandro Balzan (Italy), Gunnar Jeannette (Salt Lake City, Ut.) and Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla.) came away from the Roar test three weeks ago with a lot of laps under their belts and optimism for the race this weekend. The team, on the strength of the Scuderia Corsa prepared No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, had a fault-free run at the test allowing the drivers to focus on getting laps and the team to get a set-up on the white and black Ferrari that satisfied all four drivers.
Of the driving quartet, only Segal owns a Rolex 24 victory, which came in the GTD class in 2014. This year will be Jeannette's 11th Rolex 24 appearance, the eighth for MacNeil and the fifth for Balzan.
"Scuderia Corsa and Ferrari have worked very hard over the off season to improve a back-to-back championship winning car," MacNeil said. "They have changed a few things for the positive and I am certain their hard work will translate to a faster race car on the track. The GTD competition is strong, but both our team and our car are tried and true.
"It will be a busy week for me as I am not only competing in the 24-hour race, but also in the Ferrari Challenge races. I will focus on resting when I am not in the car to reserve as much energy as possible to be 110% in the WeatherTech GT3 Ferrari. Eating something high in protein before I get in the car will be important as well as staying hydrated throughout the entire race week."
"The prototypes are crazy fast this year. I am anticipating some contact between prototypes and GTD cars as there are drivers in both classes that don't want to give an inch, even if there are 20 hours left in the race. It will be important to watch the mirrors rigorously to stay out of trouble for 24 hours. I can't wait for my first stint!"
"Looking at Roar results all the GTD field looks insanely close," Balzan said. "It will be a great show for the fans out there and a big challenge for all the drivers and teams. We collected a lot of data and we have a clear picture where we need to improve, plus Scuderia Corsa has received all drivers feedback. We are ready! The Rolex 24 is the first race of the season coming off a long break. Every time it looks like is the first time you go there. Daytona is not a "heavy" track for the drivers, but it requires a lot of focus. The loss of focus is the most dangerous thing. To prevent this, I did a lot of cardio activity with functional training. During the race it is crucial and very different from a standard race weekend. I will have little meals almost every time before going into the car. I already started one month ago to take some nutritional supplement to help with hydration. Then the most difficult part is to rest during the race. It is not easy, but you have to forget about the race once your stint is over. Go back to the RV have a nice hot shower, a massage and a little nap. Otherwise when the sun rises it is going to be really hard!"
"The prototype class this year is really quick, and I mean extremely quick. A lot of new prototype drivers that are new to multi-class racing. Some are aggressive some are not. We need extra focus on how to manage the traffic safely, the spotters are a great help and it was great to work with them already at the Roar!"
Left to right, Jeff Segal, Gunnar Jeannette, Cooper MacNeil, Alessandro Balzan.
"The GTD class is one of the most competitive classes in the race," Segal said. "The quality of teams and drivers in the race makes it ultra-competitive. We have all the ingredients, car, car prep and drivers to be in the mix on Sunday. Obviously, you never know how things will go in the race, we will need things to go our way."
"You have to prepare for the endurance component of the race. We have three and two and a half hour races when you are driving for an hour and a half at a time. At Daytona you do two and three-hour stints and you have to recover and get back in. I add more cardio and more reps leading up to the race. I also focus on getting rest leading up to the weekend. You give up so much energy in the race, you have to recover. The noise at the race track makes it so tough to get your body to totally shut down, but you have to and get some rest."
"The prototypes will be a big part of the race. It is a bigger field than it ever has been. You have a lot of drivers new to this type of racing and a few that are young open-wheel kids that are very aggressive. Do they understand the right places to make the passes on a GTD car. From the looks of things at the Roar I am not sure."
"The Rolex 24 is always an exciting event, but this year with WeatherTech Racing switching to Scuderia Corsa and Ferrari we have a lot to be excited about this week," Jeannette said. "It's always hard to gauge the level of the competition at the Roar, but we left the test with a car that all the drivers were happy with and that means a lot over 24 hours. Going into the race weekend, I think a lot of who does well will be determined by the interaction of other classes. We have a lot of 'guest' drivers coming over this year for the 24 with little sports car racing experience and I hope that they give all the classes the respect they deserve. This year, to win the race, will take a lot of speed, preparation, and luck!"
The 56th running of the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona will take the green flag on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 2:40 p.m. ET with the opening stint of the broadcast running on FOX. The grid will be set on Thursday, Jan. 25 with GTD qualifying at 3:55 p.m. ET.
Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona broadcast schedule:
Sat. Jan. 27: FOX, 2-5 p.m. FS2 5-10 p.m.; FSGO 10-11 p.m.; FS1 11 p.m.-1 a.m.
Sun. Jan 28: FSGO 1 a.m.-8 a.m.; FS2 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m.; FS1 1 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.