MacNeil goes out a winner with 24 H. of Daytona GTD Pro win in #79 Mercedes

29 Jan. 2023 • 13:43
#27 Heart of Racing Team delivers maiden 24 Hours of Daytona win for Aston Martin in GTD.
Photo : LAT

In his final start as an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver, Cooper MacNeil co-drove the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class victory today alongside Mercedes factory drivers Maro Engel, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon in the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona.


MacNeil claimed a prize he has coveted for more than a decade – the Rolex Cosmograph watch reserved for winners since the legendary Swiss firm took over as the title sponsor of the Daytona 24 Hours in 1992. McNeil earned his 12th IMSA race win, sharing honors with the WeatherTech Racing team’s season-long drivers Juncadella and Gounon and endurance ace Engel.


It was Engel who handled the anchor stint, engaging in a fierce battle with the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 driven by Jack Hawksworth and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD. Garcia eventually prevailed for second place, finishing 3.916 seconds behind Engel with co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner. Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Mike Conway completed the podium for Lexus.


“Man, those restarts are like war,” said Engel, who won in IMSA competition for the third time – his second at the Rolex 24. “It was a big dogfight with the Lexus and the Corvette. But we got there in the end, with big thanks to my teammates and the whole WeatherTech family.”


“I knew the pressure was on, but I woke up yesterday morning and told the guys, ‘I’m feeling it,’” he continued. “The last stint was definitely exciting in the car, and I can only imagine what it was like watching from outside.”


Juncadella and Gounon both earned their first IMSA race wins.

In late 2022, MacNeil announced plans to step out of the car after the Rolex 24 to focus on the future of WeatherTech Racing and the WeatherTech brand’s relationship with IMSA. His victory came in his 13th attempt at Daytona.


“This is lucky number 13 for me and my last IMSA race, so I couldn’t be happier than to win here with WeatherTech, Mercedes and Proton Competition,” MacNeil said. “It was a difficult race here at Daytona, and everyone strives to put everything together to win the Rolex watch. We came close in 2015, finishing second, but this year the Mercedes was in contention the whole time. We put the best AMG drivers in the car we could find in the world, and they drove their butts off.”


MacNeil admitted that knowing this would be his last race start, he battled some emotions – even once he was in the car.


“Once the helmet goes on, that nonsense goes out the window and you just focus on the job at hand,” he said. “My job was to go out and execute, and to keep the car clean, on the lead lap and in contention for these guys to fight for the win, as you saw Maro do.


“Winning my last IMSA race is tremendous.”


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