Cooper MacNeil praised his Motul Petit Le Mans-winning Scuderia Corsa crew after the team headed into the race event with “a lot of work to do” to make its car a contender.
MacNeil, Jeff Westphal and Alessandro Balzan took the No. 63 WeatherTech-sponsored Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020’s first win of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, as well as the team and marque’s first GT Daytona class victory in two years.
MacNeil told Sportscar365 that he was “thrilled” at the final result after Scuderia Corsa worked to solve a handful of setup conundrums during practice.
The team also came in off the back of missing the two previous GTD rounds at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Prior to Saturday’s Michelin Endurance Cup round, Scuderia Corsa had contested 17 IMSA races without taking a trip to victory lane.
“The momentum is great so far,” said MacNeil. “I won the Ferrari Challenge title for the third year in a row last weekend [at Sebring] and then came here to Petit Le Mans after sitting out two races.
“In this competitive championship, it’s not very easy to do that kind of thing. I’m really thrilled with mine and the team’s performance this weekend.
“The guys were on it from session one, which was tricky because we thought we would have a good car here since we had a good one at the six-hour here a month or so ago.
“And boy, were we wrong! We had a lot of work to do on the car. We were changing springs, changing diff ramps, changing ride heights and all sorts of stuff.
“A big thanks to the Scuderia Corsa guys for working hard tirelessly and not saying no to anything. Everything we threw at them they were happy to negotiate, so we couldn’t have done it without them.”
MacNeil explained that Scuderia Corsa’s approach to its tire usage was a major factor in it putting together a competitive package for the day-to-night endurance race.
“We made the decision to scuff eight or ten sets of tires because we knew the slicker Michelin tires would be tricky in these [cooler] temperatures,” he said.
“It was huge to get the mold release off, get the polish off the tires. At the end, I was touching a few of the sticker tires on the wall and they felt rock hard.
“So that was all the difference there, not losing 10 seconds on each out-lap.”
Telitz Delighted by Points Lead Capture
While Scuderia Corsa won the race, Aaron Telitz took over the GTD points lead with a runner-up finish alongside his AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus co-drivers Jack Hawksworth and Michael De Quesada.
The Wisconsin native left with a two-point jump on Hawksworth, who is on a separate total due to driving in a different AVS car at two races this year, and a further two points in hand to the Wright Motorsports combination of Ryan Hardwick and Patrick Long.
Former championship leaders Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry slipped to third in the table after their Acura NSX GT3 Evo lost 14 laps and slumped to 10th in the race classification when contact with another car necessitated a right-rear upright change.
Telitz told Sportscar365 that AVS’s race day did not get off to a good start, but cooler conditions towards the end favored the Lexus over some of its rivals.
“We weren’t sure how things would go at the beginning of the race,” he said.
“Our car always seems to work better the colder it gets. We struggled a bit at the beginning and we went a lap down early on.
“But once everything started cooling off the track got better. We made some moves and got lucky with some yellows. And once we hit the front we could get a big gap. That’s how we managed to stick it on the podium.
“It’s an awesome day for us, for Lexus, and AIM Vasser Sullivan. It’s just and all-around awesome for us.”
Telitz added that has high hopes going into the penultimate round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca despite the fact a GTD-class Lexus has never finished better than seventh in its previous trips to the circuit.
“I personally love Laguna Seca,” said Telitz. “I think it’s an awesome track. I’ve won a Pro Mazda championship there.
“But if you look at Lexus’ track record there over the last few years, it does not look very good.
“We can’t paint a great picture, but we’re going to go there with our heads down and see what we can come out with.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report