WeatherTech Racing is currently running 18th in the GTD class six hours into the 56th IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 At Daytona at the Daytona International Speedway.
Drivers Alessandro Balzan (Italy), Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.), Jeff Segal (Miami), and Gunnar Jeannette (Salt Lake City), in that order, each got some seat time within the first six hours.
Balzan started the race fifth in GTD and ran as high as fourth before turning the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 over to MacNeil in 12th, just one hour into the race. Balzan cited having a lack of competitive top end speed as the reason the car dropped out of the top 10 within the first hour.
“It’s a long race, we’ve got to be patient,” Balzan said. “We cannot take any risk. Right now, we are missing top speed compared to all of the other cars out there. So, we just have to survive and not make mistakes.”
With MacNeil now behind the wheel for his double stint, his strategy was to manage the car, push hard where he could, and keep the No. 63 Ferrari out of trouble despite the frenetic on track action that was going on around him. On lap 85, MacNeil brought the car to pit lane for four tires, fuel and a driver change. That’s when Jeanette got in.
“The double stint was OK,” MacNeil said. “There’s lots of time left. There are lots of people driving like it’s the last lap. So, we’re just letting them take care of themselves. We’re just managing the car, really. We’re just trying to save it for the end of the race.
“The full course caution came at quite an inopportune time. We were low on fuel and just about to pit, and then the yellow came out. So then, we were in full on save fuel mode. I actually ran out of fuel. The engine died when I came rolling into the pit lane. I had to put the clutch in and coast the car down pit lane. Luckily, I made it half way down the pit lane, turned in and we just stopped in our pit box. Had we been three or four pit boxes down the road, we wouldn’t have made it. It was super close. But, we’re still going.”
Jeanette started his double stint 12th. He immediately put the hammer down and had the WeatherTech Ferrari up to ninth in class just a dozen laps into the first stint. By the time Jeanette was done with his second stint, he was eighth before handing the controls over to Segal.
“The car felt good,” Jeanette said. “Right now, we just don’t have the ultimate pace. We’re just struggling a little with grip – a lot of people are. We just seemed to be suffering with that more than some of the others. But, overall the car is performing well. The team is going a good job. We’re just circulating, doing laps.”
Nine laps into Segal’s first stint, the car had shifting issues. Segal brought the car to pit lane to have the Scuderia Corsa crew take a look. After nearly 15 minutes on pit lane, the crew made a few adjustments and sent the Segal back on track. But now, the team was seven laps down in 17th place. Unfortunately, exiting pit lane, the team got a drive through penalty for excessive wheel spin.
Over the course of the next two laps, Segal made two trips to pit lane. The first stop was for rain tires and a new steering wheel (to fix the shifting issues). The second trip was to serve the drive through penalty. Now, the team was eight laps off the GTD lead with 18 hours to go.
“You know pretty quickly because these cars are so automated at this point, with the paddle shift transmission, that the car shifted twice when I upshifted once and that to me was a little bit of a red flag,” Segal said of when the shift issues started. “Just as I radioed it in, I tried to downshift and I had no control. So, we came to the pit lane and the Scuderia Corsa guys did a great job trying to troubleshoot and diagnose the problem. I know they changed a whole host of parts at the back of the car to do with the pneumatic shifting. We changed the steering wheel. We don’t know exactly what it was. But now, it’s fixed. Unfortunately, we lost quite a lot of time. You can work as fast as you want. But, a lot of those parts aren’t easy to change.”
“We have a very drivable care. We have a very predictable car. We have a very comfortable car. It’s just lacking pace. You know, in some ways, you can say that’s OK for endurance race. But, the nature of this race, over the past five or six years, is it’s a sprint. I think without the issues we definitely have a car that can compete. It’s a shame. I definitely wouldn’t say we’re out of it yet. You never know. Strange things can happen. Now we need a little misfortune for others to be back in it.”
Race fans can continue to watch all of the exciting race action on Fox Sports 2 through 10 p.m. (ET). The coverage then moves to Fox Sports GO from 10 to 11 p.m.; Fox Sports 1 from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 28; FSGO 1 a.m. to 8 a.m.; FS1 from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; FSGO from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and FS1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information on WeatherTech Racing, including race recaps, photos and team gear, please visit the team site at www.WeatherTechRacing.com.