24h Le Mans
03/06/2019 - 10:50

24 Hours of Le Mans – Cooper MacNeil, stronger contender than ever for LMGTE Am win

This year, Cooper MacNeil will be back at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the sixth time. The American driver is coming off a full 2018 season with an impressive calendar, with several wins to his credit. With a Ferrari 488 GTE he knows well and previous Le Mans winners for teammates (Toni Vilander and Rob Smith), MacNeil is better poised than ever to win. Here he shares his state of mind ahead of the big race.
24 Hours of Le Mans – Cooper MacNeil, stronger contender than ever for LMGTE Am win

After driving a Corvette C7.R in 2013, then a Porsche 911 RSR in 2014, Cooper MacNeil will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours this June at the wheel of a Ferrari for the third consecutive year. This time, he will partner Toni Vilander and Rob Smith in the #62 488 GTE fielded by WeatherTech Racing. "It's absolutely important to have stability and confidence when at Le Mans and that comes with nothing less than seat time which is a huge premium due to the lack of track time."

Though highly experienced, the American doesn't feel unbeatable and is ready for anything. "I do know the track well, but the Circuit de La Sarthe is ever changing. Every lap is different at Le Mans. Most of the race track is on a public road which throws a curveball at you at 300+kph. As they say, it always rains at Le Mans so you have to be really heads up about that. Indy 1 and 2 and Arnage could be dry, but then you enter the Porsche Curves and you could meet a wall of water at 280k you weren’t expecting."

In 2016, illness ruled MacNeil out of the race, leaving teammates Leh Keen and Marc Miller to start without him. He had encountered a similar situation two years earlier when he and Jeroen Bleekemolen lost their teammate. MacNeil has fond memories of that edition where he finished fifth in class. "In all honesty, the 12 hours of driving in 2014 wasn’t that bad. Jeroen and I knew we couldn’t win so we just wanted to run a clean and consistent race and finish. The toughest part was the lack of sleep. It felt like every time I got to the motor home and my head hit the pillow there was a knock at the door to go back to the pits. I must say that doing the 24 hours with only two drivers in the Pro class was an amazing experience and I’m happy I did it but I’d like to have three healthy drivers from now on!"

The goal for the 2019 edition is clear, win the LMGTE Am class. To that end, in 2018 MacNeil participated in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the Ferrari Challenge in the U.S. That's a staggering 24 races and 10 wins. It was an intense, confidence-building year. "As I always say, it’s all about seat time. The more you drive the car, the better, faster, and more consistent you will be. Combining IMSA with Ferrari Challenge really meant I was in a car nearly every weekend and the results speak for themselves! Le Mans is an endurance mindset but a flat-out one nonetheless. We will need to push hard but not too hard for the entire 24 hours."

With Smith (LMGTE Am winner in 2017) and Vilander (LMGTE Pro winner in 2012 and 2014) as teammates, MacNeil has experience on his side and will be seeking the top step on the category podium. "I think combining a brand new Ferrari, support from Scuderia Corsa – a team that has been on the podium three times at Le Mans – and three drivers that have all been on the podium at Le Mans gives us one hell of a shot at a podium finish this year. We will need to keep the car clean and fast the whole race. It’s about making zero mistakes on the race track AND in the pit lane. If we can do that, we will have the pace to win the race."

 

PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, 2019. The experienced Cooper MacNeil is better prepared than ever for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Can he and his teammates clinch the win?

Associated news