On Wednesday morning, WeatherTech Racing made two announcements for the upcoming 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. First off, the team itself has moved away from Alex Job Racing. It will now compete as the second team affiliated with Riley Motorsports, using the No. 50. Cooper MacNeil, son of WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil, will drive with Gunnar Jeannette. Jeannette was hired as Cooper MacNeil’s co-driver late last season after Leh Keen was released.
Second, WeatherTech Racing, along with Riley Motorsports, is switching to the new Mercedes AMG GT3 for the 2017 season. The AMG GT3 actually made its American debut during November testing at Daytona last year, but the car was not eligible to race this year in IMSA due to Mercedes not paying the fee necessary to become an official IMSA manufacturer. According to the press release, the team has had their AMG GT3 for less than four weeks. The team’s chassis made its American debut in a private test at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday.
Cooper MacNeil is very excited about his new German mount.
“When I first drove the Mercedes at Hockenheim in Germany I was absolutely blown away,” Cooper MacNeil said in the team’s press release. “I could tell within the first three corners that the car was so well balanced and was an absolute dream to drive. I’m excited to return to IMSA with our new sharper weapon. I’m really looking forward to bringing the new car to IMSA and seeing how it matches up against the other cars, which I think we should fare well. Riley has been a proven team for many years and it will be great to team up with them. They know how to manage their program very well and have done a great job with the Viper program over the past couple of years.”
Last year, WeatherTech Racing was affiliated with Alex Job Racing and raced the Porsche 911 GT3 R. While quick at times, the new Porsche was rather ill-suited for amateur racers, making it hard to be competitive. In addition, there were feelings that the Balance of Performance was not in the Porsche’s favor. That led to WeatherTech Racing pulling out of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after Road America in August. Prior to the withdrawal, Cooper MacNeil had earned fifth-place finishes at Sebring and Watkins Glen. The team was right up in the hunt at Daytona in January, but issues with the rear wing dropped them down the order. Despite missing the final three races, Cooper MacNeil was still credited with 12th in points.
After the withdrawal from IMSA, Alex Job Racing moved over to Pirelli World Challenge, running in the last two race weekends for Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. There, Cooper MacNeil and Jeannette each ran Porsche 911 GT3 R’s in the GT/GTA/GT Cup races (Jeannette in GT, Cooper MacNeil in GTA) and teamed up for the two Sprint-X races held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Cooper MacNeil picked up a GTA win in the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and two third-place runs at Sonoma. Jeannette struggled at times in GT, but did earn a joint third-place finish in the first Sprint-X race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
WeatherTech Racing will likely be back at Daytona International Speedway next week as IMSA holds an open test session on the 3.56-mile road course. The race debut for the Mercedes AMG GT3 will be in the Rolex 24 at Daytona Jan. 28-29, 2017. Additional drivers to join Cooper MacNeil and Jeannette for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races will be announced at a later date.
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