Less than three months ago, Jeroen Bleekemolen was preparing to make his factory debut with SRT Motorsports, Prospeed Competition’s No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was the fourth reserve entry and drivers Cooper MacNeil and Bret Curtis were searching for a way into the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Yet, a series of events, initially triggered by SRT’s withdrawal from the race, and additional teams pulling the plug on their Le Mans programs, has pulled all three drivers and the Belgian squad together to make a late bid for GTE-Am class honors.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Bleekemolen told Sportscar365. “Cooper has always been talking to me about Le Mans and he was just exploring the opportunities. When I heard the news from SRT, it was quite late already but Bret Curtis called me right away and said if there’s a chance to run with me, he wants to do it.
“They both started talking to different teams. In the end, they both said we want to go with Prospeed but they still didn’t have an entry.
“Then when they finally got the entry, it was easy to make the deal because they all wanted to go with them and with me as the pro in the car. It worked out well.”
As a result, Bleekemolen has been reunited with his two former teammates. The two-time Porsche Supercup champion teamed with MacNeil to win the ALMS GTC title with Alex Job Racing last year, while he’s also shared the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 with Curtis on a handful of occasions.
The deal, brokered by MacNeil, sees the WeatherTech-sponsored entry among the contenders in GTE-Am, although in a field stacked with a class-high 19 entries.
“You know when you have so many cars that it’s going to be tough,” Bleekemolen said. “To get through the race without issues is already a big thing here. For sure, some cars will do that.
“If you look at the past, if you stayed out of trouble, you were nearly guaranteed a podium finish. Usually, the fight for the win was close but then third place was already many laps down.
“I think this year it will be different because there’s so many cars. And some cars have a pro Silver in it as well, which will make it harder.”
Bleekemolen, who claimed LMP2 class honors at Le Mans in 2008, admits it will be a tough fight ahead, especially with none of the drivers having been present at the test day due to their commitments in Detroit.
Yet, with a tried-and-trusted package in the 997-based Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and the uncertainties that any 24-hour race can bring, the U.S.-backed trio could be among the teams knocking on the door of a podium finish come 3 p.m. on Sunday
“Of course, you have to set some high ambitions,” he said. “I think a podium would be a nice way to finish. I know it’s going to be very hard because the competition is unbelievable.
“If we can get through the race without issues, you never know. It’s a strange race with a lot going on. Let’s hope we can fight for the podium.”