Photo: WeatherTech Racing

WeatherTech Racing solid on day 1 at Le Mans

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The WeatherTech Racing trio of Cooper MacNeil, Bill Sweedler, and NBCSN’s Townsend Bell began their 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans venture on Thursday during practice and provisional qualifying, with Sweedler and Bell aiming to repeat their 2016 triumph in the GTE-Am class, done under the Scuderia Corsa banner.

Their No. 62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GTE-Am machine ran without incident during six hours of practice before placing ninth on the provisional GTE-Am class grid.

As Sweedler explained, Thursday was about settling into a routine and establishing a baseline. “We were getting the car sorted today. We were fine tuning the setup and getting our compulsory night laps. We are where we were last year and we won the race last year. We are jelling as a team. Cooper is new, but he fits right in and has a lot of confidence in the car. We will do the same tomorrow and be as prepared as we can be for the race on Saturday.”

Bell added that he had to reacclimate himself with driving at night, and he even made a couple little mistakes involving the cockpit lights and headlights.

“We were getting acclimated to running this new car at night. I forgot to turn on the cockpit lights and then shut the headlights off on the Mulsanne going into the first chicane. It is good to thrash through it and get those things out of the way,” Bell revealed. “This place is intimidating at night, it is a completely different world out there when it gets dark. The balance of the Ferrari is terrific. It is a good race car. Just to have the time to make the little mistakes now is helpful.”

MacNeil, the newest member of the team, who has competed at Le Mans twice in 2013 and 2014, emphasized that making it through the day cleanly was a vital part of their Thursday effort.

“The first day was good. All three of us kept the car clean, away from contact and on the track,” MacNeil detailed. “It is always good when you have a nice clean day of practice. That saves the car and saves the work for the crew. They work hard and don’t need any unnecessary effort going into 24 hours of racing. All three of us ran solid quick laps. I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

WeatherTech Racing resumes their effort on Friday with second official practice.

 

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Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”