Left to right, Maro Engel, Cooper MacNeil, and Jules Gounon celebrate at Sebring.
Sebring, Fla. (March 19, 2022) – WeatherTech Racing finished third and sixth in today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Under sunny skies and 80 degrees the WeatherTech Racing pair of cars had a strong showing at Sebring. Cooper MacNeil took the opening stint in the No. 97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Mercedes-Benz of Billings, Montana support for the once around the clock race. Approximately 90-minutes into the event, after a pit stop, MacNeil had to serve a drive through penalty for a pit lane infraction. The Proton managed team, through strong pit work and strategy, got the car back on the lead lap and even into the overall lead of the ultra-competitive GTD Pro class five hours into the race.
As the race progressed Julien Andlauer, Alessio Picariello and MacNeil, driving both cars, also had the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche GT3 R in the top five. As the sun set the real racing began. The GTD Pro field was pursuing the Corvette that received an unprecedented balance of performance adjustment prior to the race and couldn’t be touched. In the last eight minutes of the race, Jules Gounon was in pursuit of the Lexus and was able to get bye and take the last step on the GTD Pro podium.
The third-place finish was a rich reward for the team after the car missed the running all day Thursday due to a mechanical issue. Gounon, Maro Engel and MacNeil drove a fault free race to get the brand another podium finish in central Florida.
“Long hot day,” MacNeil said. “We just kept our head down, focused and kept moving forward. We had a couple of issues here and there but we persisted to the end. Jules did a great job to get around the Lexus there with a few minutes to go. Maro did a great job during the day with his stint and especially at the end with a little fuel saving to get us in a position to run for the podium. A great job by the Proton team in the pits and getting the car together after a tough start to the week. Feels good to get another Sebring podium finish.”
Gounon got permission to go “full send.”
“It was crazy at the end, I was pushing like hell,” Gounon said. “I had multiple contact with the Lexus at the end. I talked with Cooper before the race and I asked him what do we do if we are in contention, he said full send. Cooper did an amazing job in the beginning of the race and Maro did a great job with a fuel save run at the end and his stints all day. I just sent it at the end. A good day for a late entry into the race and really no practice. Pretty cool to be on the podium.”
Engel did a fuel save run late and put in some fast times during the hot afternoon.
“We ran a good race,” Engel said. “We couldn’t quite close the gap to the leaders. We really couldn’t get it into contention at the very front. From where we started with our trouble on Thursday, we had a strong run. The team and drivers all combined to do a great job to get the WeatherTech Mercedes on the podium.”
The No. 79 Porsche also had a strong run. Julien Andlauer and Alessio Picariello along with MacNeil had the car in the top six most of the race.
“It was a tough weekend,” Picariello said. “We didn’t have the car to fight for the top position this time. We had a nice clean race with no huge mistakes. We maximized what we had and Julien and Cooper did a great job.”
WeatherTech Racing Sebring driver lineup:
No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R will be Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill), Julien Andlauer (France), and Alessio Picariello (Belgium).
No. 97 WeatherTech Racing with Mercedes-Benz of Billings Mercedes-AMG GT3 Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill), Maro Engel (Germany), and Jules Gounon (France).
The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship goes from its two longest races to one of the shortest with the Long Beach Grand Prix being next up on the schedule April 8-9.