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WeatherTech Racing has moved its entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the GTE Pro category for the race to run at the Circuit de la Sarthe, in Le Mans, France, September 19-20.

Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.), Toni Vilander (Kankaanpää, Finland), and Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla.) will drive the No. 63 Ferrari GTE 488 Evo in France. MacNeil drove with Segal in 2018 and with Vilander last year at the classic sportscar race and continues with the Finn in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship this season. Segal has a Le Mans class win in 2016 with Scuderia Corsa, MacNeil has two third-place finishes and Vilander has two wins.

“We made the decision to move our entry to Pro for several reasons,” MacNeil said. “We had a couple of very good bronze drivers we were talking to, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions in different countries around the world we didn’t have the 100 percent confidence that everyone could converge at Le Mans in September. We had to make a decision. You can’t go to Le Mans with loose ends. We didn’t believe we could put the type of entry together that would be up to our standards. Jeff and Toni are well known to our team and we have all driven together in the past. With the shortened Le Mans race week timetable, we felt our best chance for success is to go into the race with drivers who have raced together.

“I have driven with Toni and Jeff at Le Mans as well as in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship. We know each other very well and all have a lot of laps around Le Mans. I drove in the Pro category with Jeroen Bleekemolen in 2014 and we finished fifth, with just two drivers. I have a lot of confidence in our team and drivers going into next month. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people with our effort.”

“Interesting. It is great news that we will be racing in the Pro category next month at Le Mans,” Vilander said. “Our driver line-up is very solid and we will help Cooper to get the maximum speed out of the car. In Pro the Ferrari 488 will have some more horsepower, but he is used to that with all of the Ferrari Challenge racing he has been doing the past couple of years. Jeff knows the Le Mans circuit really well and is a master at coaching other drivers to get around there fast.

“Over the years I have come to appreciate the Le Mans race and the spectacle of such a big event. It is really nice that the ACO has been able to organize the race under the tough conditions of COVID-19. I am really looking forward to going back with Cooper, Jeff, Ferrari, WeatherTech and the Scuderia Corsa team.”

“I’m really excited to be heading back to Le Mans this year, and very proud to once again be teamed with Cooper and representing WeatherTech in this important race,” Segal said. “Obviously this is a strange year and we find ourselves in very strange circumstances-everything feels new and different with adjusted schedules and many different protocols around us, but I’m looking forward to putting all of that aside and getting underway and back to something which will feel “normal,” at least while we are behind the wheel, in September.

“The decision to run in the Pro class was one that I wasn’t really expecting, but the more I think about it, the more I’m looking forward to the opportunity and to this great challenge ahead. Cooper has a history of running in the Pro class under some strange circumstances, and he came away with a really impressive top-five finish in that race. This year we will find ourselves competing against the very best GTE teams and drivers anywhere in the world-the other cars in the class are almost exclusively factory-backed efforts, so we have to be humble and recognize that we are arriving on unfamiliar turf, and with a big gap to close to these other teams. With that said, I’m looking forward to sharing the car with Toni and Cooper and seeing what we can do together with the Scuderia Corsa crew-you really never know how this race will unfold, and perhaps if we keep our noses clean and we stay smart and patient, we might be able to surprise some people at the end of the race!”

The IMSA WeatherTech Championship GTLM and GTD competitors will return to action at Virginia International Raceway, August 25 – 23.

Source. Kyle Chura/WeatherTech Racing


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