DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2020) - WeatherTech Racing drivers Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.), Toni Vilander (Kankaanpää, Finland), Alessandro Balzan (Italy), and Jeff Westphal (San Mateo, Calif.) finished seventh in the GTD class in the IMSA WeatherTech Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Throughout the day Saturday, the overnight hours, and into the early morning hours of Sunday, all four drivers had the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo consistently in the top five. In fact, Vilander drove the Scuderia Corsa prepared Ferrari into the GTD race lead just prior to the halfway point.
This year's race had very few full course cautions (six total). This is when teams tend to change the car's brakes. Some GTD teams took advantage of a full course yellow early in evening, while other teams hoped to see a caution a little past the halfway point. But, a yellow did not come soon enough for the WeatherTech Racing crew as they had to complete a front brake change under green flag conditions at 6 a.m. Sunday (nearly 17 hours into the race). At the time, the team was running fourth in GTD and on the lead lap. After the stop, the No. 63 Ferrari went two laps down.
From there, the team needed a couple of cautions to help them regain the two laps they were down to the GTD race leader. The team got one lap back when the No. 19 caught fire with about four and a half hours remaining. In the late stages of the race, Westphal, Balzan and Vilander each took turns pushing hard to put the No. 63 in the top five and get back onto the GTD lead lap. Fortunately, the team finished the twice-around-the-clock classic. But, had to settle for a seventh-place finish.
"It was a good first outing for a brand-new race car from Ferrari so thank you to them for building such a reliable car," MacNeil said. "It's a shame we didn't seem to have the speed the other cars showed, but it definitely wasn't from lack of effort. A big thanks to everyone at Scuderia Corsa and WeatherTech Racing for the hard work. Obviously, not where we wanted to be at the finish, but I think we got some decent Michelin Endurance Cup points and we'll take this as a learning experience moving forward."
"We really believed we had a chance to win," Vilander said. "But, at one point, it was obvious that we just didn't have the speed. Even cruising around towards the end of the race, I couldn't stay with the winning cars in our category in the infield. Coming out Turn Six, we'd pull fifth or sixth gear and they would just pull away. I had no chance, at this level, to recover from that loss [of power] in a straight line. It's a bit frustrating. We also need to analyze why we lost even more [ground] during the daytime. During the day, it felt even worse."
"I think that the Ferrari 488 EVO is a great car," Balzan said. "Here we were really strong in the corners. The car has massive downforce. I think for the kind of track that Daytona is we were needing a little bit more top speed, maybe that was a little bit of B.o.P, but this car is impressive. The car had a good balance once we found good pressure in the tires. The team did a great job fine tuning the car, it was really nice to drive. I think we are a little bit disappointed because it is strange when you have a car that drives well but you aren't performing. I think we did our best today. The drivers, really no one, made one mistake. I think today, with more luck, we had a top five car."
"You have to look big picture," Westphal said. "You have to think about the next race and the next three after that. You have to focus on scoring as many points with what you have and move on because there's a championship at the end of the year and it's pretty sweet to win. The new Ferrari 488 GT3 EVO 2020 definitely is a different machine than what we had before, I like a lot of the upgrades. At a high-speed track like this I think we could have used a little more testing. We made hay with what we had, the new machine is really good. I'm looking forward to giving it a shot at Sebring because a lot of the attributes the car has should be really sharp at Sebring so I'm very excited about the next race."
The IMSA WeatherTech Championship next heads to Sebring International Raceway March 18-21 for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. The team finished third at Sebring last year.