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Start Crash was “Worst-Case Scenario” for GTLM Porsche

Start-line crash made “clock slow down” for rest of No. 79 crew’s race, says Cooper MacNeil…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

WeatherTech Racing driver Cooper MacNeil described his Porsche 911 RSR-19’s contact with Bruno Spengler’s BMW M8 GTE at the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona as the “worst-case scenario” for the first race of the team’s new GT Le Mans program.

MacNeil’s co-driver Kevin Estre, who was starting from third on the grid, was turned around from behind by Spengler as the GT cars approached the green flag on Saturday.

The Frenchman was speared to the right and into the side of Alessandro Pier Guidi’s Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, causing damage to the Porsche’s front and the rear.

Significant repairs including swap-outs of both bumpers and splitters, combined with a drive-through penalty for too many mechanics tending to the car, cost WeatherTech 14 laps and ultimately set its Porsche on course to spend the entire 24 hours in last place.

“It was really the worst-case scenario for a 24-hour race,” reflected MacNeil, who is due to contest the full-season with the Proton Competition-supported WeatherTech crew.

“You have a problem early in the race, get it fixed, go several laps down, and then everything goes really well, but you’re out of it. It just makes the clock slow down and turns the event into a real grind.

“On the positive side, I really like driving the RSR and working with Proton Competition. We will lick our wounds and start looking forward to Sebring.”

Gianmaria Bruni, who shared driving duties with MacNeil, Estre and Richard Lietz, explained that the Porsche’s performance permanently dipped after the incident.

At one stage during the 15th hour, Estre spun whilst negotiating the Bus Stop chicane and spread an advertising board onto the track which resulted in a full-course yellow. 

The WeatherTech quartet ultimately finished 10 laps off the winning Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driven by Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Castsburg.

“The car was not like it was for Thursday and Friday practice,” said Bruni.

“It is evident we have [had] some issues with the car. We had a good package.

“But unfortunately, everything went away just before the start. That’s racing. But, it’s a shame some of our competitors should not race like this in a 24-hour race.”

Estre voiced his frustration during the early stages of the race, tweeting: “Can’t believe it! We’ve lost the race before it even started. I was waiting for the pole sitter to go on power there and the BMW just went full throttle without looking ahead! Unbelievable…”

Spengler, meanwhile, also shared his view of the clash which resulted in a drive-through penalty for his No. 25 Team RLL BMW.

The Canadian, who explained that the move was unintentional, ended up finishing fifth alongside his teammates Timo Glock, Philipp Eng and Connor de Phillippi.

“Regarding the incident at the start when it was going green, I went on [the] throttle as we do at every start here in IMSA, and the car in front of me did not quite go at the same time as me, so unfortunately I nicked the rear corner of his car,” said Spengler.

“I tried to avoid him, but it was just enough to spin him around. That was a bit of an unfortunate situation but definitely not intentional.

“Unfortunately, on their car there was quite a lot of damage, but these things can happen.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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