Cooper MacNeil says his outings in the European Le Mans Series are aimed to prepare “as much as possible” for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche 911 RSR-19, where he will again take on the GTE-Pro ranks in the French endurance classic.
MacNeil made his series debut in the recent 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring, finishing sixth in class alongside Matt Campbell and Proton Competition team boss Christian Ried in the WeatherTech-sponsored Porsche.
With plans to complete the remainder of the ELMS season, including the next two rounds at Paul Ricard and Monza in advance of Le Mans, MacNeil feels the extra seat time in the GTE-spec Porsche, along with his full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship commitments with the car in GTLM, will prove to be beneficial.
“I wanted to have more driving time in this Porsche 911 RSR-19 in a competitive European atmosphere,” MacNeil told Endurance-Info. “The best way to do it and the most in line with my budget is the ELMS.
“I will also continue to drive in GTLM in IMSA. Both will help me to build a certain relationship with the team, the drivers and continue my learning with this car.
“The goal is to spend as much time as possible behind the wheel. We are going to run in GTE-Pro at Le Mans and it will be difficult. We will face the biggest teams and the best drivers in the world.
“Le Mans is the most prestigious race on the planet. So preparing as much as possible before the big race is important.”
The 28-year-old Silver-rated driver is set for his second consecutive Le Mans appearance in GTE-Pro following last year’s run in a Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE Evo with Toni Vilander and Jeff Segal.
MacNeil said the decision to again enter the GTE-Pro ranks comes from wanting to keep a “certain continuity” in the program between the WeatherTech Championship and at Le Mans.
“We are in GTLM this year [in IMSA] and we already drove in GTE-Pro at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year,” he said. “I think without Toni’s crash we would have finished fourth and with a little help we could have been on the podium.
“The level in GTE-Am is very, very high but the concern is that you must have a Bronze driver.
“Finding [a Bronze] who has done Le Mans before, who is fast and with money is very difficult. In GTE-Pro, you don’t have to worry about this.
“I know we’ll face a very strong field but whether it’s in Am or Pro, it’s difficult anyways. You don’t line up in a race to have easy competition.
“To compete against the likes of Porsche, Corvette and Ferrari is just amazing and super motivating.
“We, as a WeatherTech company, want to confront each other and try to beat the best. This is why we’ve evolved to GTLM and GTE-Pro at Le Mans.
“The level is incredibly high but I know we have a chance. We saw at Sebring that we had the pace and I’m sure it would have been the same at Daytona if we hadn’t had the problem before the race even started.
“I have no regrets moving to the Pro category.”
MacNeil’s next WeatherTech Championship outing will be the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen where he will again be rejoined by Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet in Proton’s U.S.-based Porsche.
The team’s full driver lineup for Le Mans has yet to be announced.
WeatherTech Racing Undecided on GTD Pro, GTD for 2022
MacNeil said he’s currently undecided on whether to continue in the all-pro ranks in the WeatherTech Championship next year, which will be known as GTD Pro with GT3-based machinery, or to move back to the Pro-Am-enforced GTD class.
“The concern about this new class is the BoP,” he said.”In GTD Pro and GTD, the cars will be the same. It’s difficult for me to say at the moment which I will choose because the BoP will be the same in both.
“If we had a better BoP in Pro, I would go for this category. For the moment, I’m thinking more about GTD [in general].
“It would be nice to be part of [GTD Pro], in the construction of a new GTD platform. I’m just sad to see the GTLMs disappear because the Porsche RSR is an incredible car to drive.
“So not being able to have them in IMSA anymore is a real shame but I think GT3 is the direction that the motorsport world is going to take.
“We will soon be able to race GT3s all over the world. This is the future.”
David Bristol contributed to this report