SEBRING, Fla., (March 16, 2019) - WeatherTech Racing drivers Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.), Toni Vilander (Finland), and Jeff Westphal (San Mateo, Calif.) finished third in the GTD class of 67th IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The first 40 minutes of today's Twelve Hours of Sebring started under caution due to constant rain and poor track conditions. This meant that MacNeil, who started seventh on the GTD class grid, needed to keep the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari on the track and out of trouble until the conditions improved. And, that's what he did. He drove a solid first stint, putting the No. 63 in the top five before handing it over to Westphal.
Throughout the day, all three drivers had to battle the ever-changing track conditions from wet to dry multiple times. Despite those changing conditions, the trio managed to put the car consistently in the top three and, in fact, led the GTD class a couple of times.
But, team's finish really came down to the final restart with six minutes to go. Vilander was behind the wheel in third when the green flag dropped. He was quickly passed by the No. 29 Audi and Vilander dropped to fourth. Undaunted by the pass for the final podium position, Vilander proceeded to chase down the No. 29 Audi and overtook the Audi when it went wide. From there, Vilander was in third and never looked back.
"Again, [we had] the famous six minutes to go and a full course yellow," Vilander said of the race's final restart. "It got nuts. People were spinning all over the place. The contact and the aggression levels were so high.
I got hit at the restart in Turn 17. I collected all the marbles, so it was difficult to keep the rhythm. I dropped down to fourth. I was surprised. Sometimes, I'm a bit hotheaded. But I kept calm. Somehow, I knew it was going to happen [the final pass for third] and it did happen. I managed to come back to third and finish the race.
"I wanted to do well after the difficult conditions we had at Daytona. We had a chance to score a good result [at Daytona], but it didn't happen. So, [at Sebring] I really wanted finish the race, finish on the podium, and build the foundation from there.
"Cooper did a fantastic job at the start of the race with the amount of water and everything. And Jeff, what a drive. He was fast - no mistakes - and pushed it to the front. It was a good trio, good combination. We'll keep working and hopefully we'll find more speed."
With today's finish, MacNeil has now been on the podium four times in his Sebring career.
"Any day that you go to the track and get a trophy, especially in an extremely competitive championship like this one, it's a good day," MacNeil said. "You deserve to pat yourself on the back for sure. All of the guys worked their butts off. They rebuilt a race car after an unfortunate end to the 24 Hours At Daytona. A big thanks to the guys for working hard and not giving up. We kind of dug ourselves a hole at the beginning [of the season]. We needed to get a good result here. It was a good day all around. This is my fourth podium here at Sebring."
"Having Toni in the car, in a podium position at the end of the race, I can't think of a better combination. Great drive by Toni. With five minutes to go, we were fourth. He kept his head down, made a good pass on the No. 29 car and we're on the podium."
Westphal drove a solid race, consistently putting the No. 63 Ferrari in the top three during his stints.
"The car was feeling pretty good and I saw that we had a shot at it [the win]. Not that it motivates me much more than I'm already motivated, but I got into a rhythm and was able to put in some solid stints. I was able to make some headway up through the field. With Toni and Cooper, we were able to move the car progressively towards the front. We were in the right position towards the end and we just had to push that last couple of hours. This place beats you up. My back is killing me. Sebring is tough. The bumps are tough. The sporadic rain was a challenge. You've got to be good in the rain because we're WeatherTech."
The IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship GTD class next heads to Lexington, Ohio May 3-5 for the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.