If not for a shifting issue and a drive through penalty early in the race, which put the team eight laps down to the GTD class leaders, the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 might have been in contention for a GTD class top five finish, and quite possibly a win.
In fact, after the shifting issue was fixed, the car ran flawlessly and all four drivers – Cooper MacNeil, Alessandro Balzan (Italy), Gunnar Jeanette (Salt Lake City), and Jeff Segal (Miami) – ran lap times better than or consistent with the GTD leaders and stayed out of trouble.
“The car seemed pretty racy, pretty competitive,” Segal said. “We were able to hang with the lead pack as predicted. It’s extremely difficult to have enough of an advantage to go by the [GTD] leaders. You’ve got to have something pretty remarkable. And, we’ve got a great car. But, with the Balance of Performance regulations, they won’t let you have a remarkable car. So, we did what we could. We put pressure on those guys [GTD leaders].
“This was a really grueling race. Having very few cautions is not what we’re used to. So, any weakness you have really gets exposed. Normally, you can count on cautions to pack you up and you can tune on your car. You can take the time during a caution to make big adjustment during a pit stop. But, we didn’t get that luxury. So, you had what you had.”
Starting the final eight hours, the No. 63 Ferrari was in 11th place, seven laps down. At this point, Segal, Balzan and Jeanette all pushed hard to put the car inside the top 10, despite the lack of cautions that could have helped them get some laps back.
In the final hour, Balzan was behind the wheel of the WeatherTech Ferrari in 11th place and knocking on the door to crack the top 10. With about 17 minutes remaining, the No. 63 finally made it back into the top 10 after falling as far back as 18th early in the race.
“We never gave up,” Balzan said. “Scuderia Corsa and WeatherTech Racing, we were always pushing. Honestly, I don’t think the drivers ever made a mistake. That was a very key point. Every pit stop went really smoothly. We had some bad luck. But, in a 24-hour race, that will happen. Of course, it was a little bit upsetting, after a few hours, to be eight laps down. But, that is racing. I think we have to be very proud and very happy to get a top 10 finish.”
“[There was] one hiccup the whole race that cost us,” MacNeil said. “We didn’t have the car to win, but we had a top five car. The good news is that we got some good points. Hats off to the team for working hard on getting the problem [the shifting issue] quickly and efficiently, and getting us back out there with minimal laps down. We never gave up. We kept clawing back. We made it back from 18th to finish 10th. And, with as few yellows as we had, I think that pretty good. I’m looking forward to Sebring.”
“We were digging,” Segal said. “The guys that we were mixing it up with are the very best of the best in the very best cars. It was bittersweet because we were right there with them. But, we weren’t [because we’re several laps down].”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads to Sebring, Florida March 14-17 for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.
Source. Kyle Chura/WeatherTech Racing