Cooper MacNeil will stand down from driving duties in next weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans, which will see WeatherTech Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo return to the GTD Pro class with an all-factory driver lineup.
Announced on Wednesday, the Silver-rated driver, son of WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil, has vacated his season-long seat in the No. 79 Mercedes in favor of the lineup consisting of Maxi Goetz, Maxi Buhk and Mikael Grenier.
It will mark the first WeatherTech Championship race in recent memory that MacNeil will not take part in, with a reason for his non-appearance yet to be disclosed.
MacNeil’s co-drivers have been on a rotating basis all season since the team’s move from Porsche to Mercedes machinery, which was followed up by a switch to the GTD class mid-season.
Out of the three drivers for Petit Le Mans, Buhk is the only pilot with previous experience of the ten-hour enduro at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, having taken part in the race in 2018 with the now-defunct P1 Motorsports operation.
“I really like the track with its elevation change and the last corner is super quick and always a challenge,” he said.
“As it’s a ten-hour race the key factor will be to stay out of trouble. We have to be in a good position for the last hour as this is the time where the race will be decided.
“The Mercedes-AMG is always competitive as we could see over the years. We should be able to take advantage of tire usage as the car is always gentle on tires.”
Grenier raced with the Proton Competition-run team at Watkins Glen earlier this year and was originally confirmed as a driver for the race.
“It will be my first-time racing at Petit Le Mans, I am looking forward to it as it is one of the most popular races of the year,” he said.
“I am also looking forward to competing in the GTD Pro Class again.
“In the race, we will need to survive the first few hours, keep the car in one piece, have a good strategy and be on the lead lap with a few hours to go and from there push for the win.
“Our WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG should be very strong in sector one so we will need to make the best out of it there.”
Goetz added: “The track looks to be a traditional old school track almost like the Nordschleife with its up and down and blind corners. It looks like it will take a lot of effort to drive. With all the prototypes and being in the slowest class it can be tricky with traffic, especially at night.
“I have been using my sim to get some laps in to learn the corners and the general gearing of the track. Of course, I’ve watched some of the past races as well.
“The key will be to not make any mistakes on the track or in the pits. I have a lot of faith in the car and the team. In racing you also need some luck, especially at the end.
“We don’t do much fuel saving racing in Europe, so we will need to be in a good position with strategy at the end.”
The Proton squad won the GTLM class last year in a controversial 1-2 finish, with its pair of Porsche 911 RSR-19s having exchanged positions on the final lap to ensure MacNeil took top honors in the category’s final race.