DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The sports car racing world trains its attention this week to France and the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, which again features a healthy representation from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
A dozen full-time WeatherTech Championship drivers are entered at Le Mans, with nearly as many WeatherTech Championship endurance and part-time racers also competing. There’s only one team, however, that has been in every WeatherTech Championship event this season and has taken on the additional monumental task of Le Mans.
Scuderia Corsa has regular drivers Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander paired with Jeff Segal to drive the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GTE EVO in the twice-around-the-clock event at Circuit de la Sarthe that was postponed from its traditional June date due to the global pandemic.
MacNeil is proud to continue the legacy of IMSA drivers and teams competing in this crown jewel of racing.
“We have kind of picked up the baton from Don Panoz as far as having an IMSA entry in the race,” MacNeil said. “Don had a love and respect for the event that led to the ACO and IMSA joining forces. We take pride in representing the IMSA series at Le Mans and look forward to delivering a performance to be proud of next weekend.”
Growing up in Finland, Vilander has been awed by Le Mans for years. While this year’s experience will be much different – without the 300,000 fans and many of the famous public events including scrutineering and the driver parade – the luster of Le Mans remains.
“I will miss all of the tradition, but it will be unique to just focus on the driving, the team and my co-drivers,” Vilander said. “It will be a different experience I am looking forward to. It has been a privilege to race for Ferrari and win the GTE Pro class twice with them. Driving a Ferrari at Le Mans makes it even more special.”
Scuderia Corsa competes in the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class but opted to move to GTE Pro for Le Mans. The choice to take on the factory teams of GTE Pro is daunting enough. Add the fact that racing in September will result in nearly an additional four hours of nighttime driving makes it even more formidable.
“We made the decision to switch (to GTE Pro) last month because of travel restrictions for drivers we were talking to,” MacNeil explained. “We wanted to go with what and who we know, with drivers Toni Vilander and Jeff Segal. The GTE Pro entry (list) has eight cars including four Ferraris. I think if we can keep the WeatherTech Racing Ferrari clean, out of trouble, out of the garage and run fast laps, we have a chance at a podium finish. Anything can happen at Le Mans and usually does.”
DragonSpeed USA, which has run in a pair of WeatherTech Championship LMP2 events this season, has two entries in the same class at Le Mans. Regular DragonSpeed drivers Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley will be joined in one of its Le Mans entries by Renger van der Zende from the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team that currently leads the WeatherTech Championship’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. DragonSpeed’s second Le Mans entry includes 2019 WeatherTech Championship DPi champion Juan Pablo Montoya from Acura Team Penske.
Bruno Spengler, fresh off a win last week in the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class is the six-hour TireRack.com Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, is the only full-time IMSA driver entered in the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class this weekend. The BMW Team RLL driver is part of the Bykolles Racing Team entry at Le Mans.
Other full-time WeatherTech Championship drivers competing at Le Mans include: Sebastien Bourdais (a Le Mans native), Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis from DPi; Simon Trummer from LMP2; Laurens Vanthoor, Fred Makowiecki and Nick Tandy from GT Le Mans; and Matt McMurry from GTD, where he is the current points leader with Meyer Shank Racing teammate Mario Farnbacher.
Practice and qualifying begins Thursday and a final practice Friday before the grueling test of driver and machine takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET) Saturday.