Two drivers for ProSpeed Porsche of Bleekemolen, MacNeil

1 Comment

WeatherTech Racing will run in the GT Pro category for the start of today’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen are up for the challenge of driving the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche RSR prepared by ProSpeed Competition for the full 24 starting at 3 p.m.local time this afternoon.

As a result of the team’s original third driver Bret Curtis (Lake Sherwood, Calif.) not being able to continue as a result of his accident on Thursday, the team searched for a replacement Bronze classified driver, but could not get one approved in time for the start of the race. Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Monte Carlo), together with the team, made the decision to run the race with just two drivers.  As a result of not having a Bronze driver in the car, the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche will now run Le Mans as a Pro car.

“We found out only 10-minutes before the warm-up that our proposed Bronze driver did not get approved,” MacNeil said. “So Jeroen and I, together with the team, decided that we will run the race with just two drivers. The Pro Class has eight cars, we will be the ninth. Maybe a couple of cars will have trouble and we can get a top five or even maybe sneak up on the podium.

“We have no real pressure on us. We don’t have to push the car 110% as we don’t have the speed to match the pace of the factory cars. We plan to turn laps, take care of the car and get it to the finish line and see where we end up. The team did a great job to get the car together and we are motivated to perform for them. I am excited about the prospect of running the race with just Jeroen for 24 hours. We are looking at triple stints for Jeroen and doubles for me.”

Bleekemolen is up to the challenge of running just two drivers.

“This will be a first for me,” Bleekemolen said. “The most hours I’ve had at Le Mans is 10 hours of driving. This weekend I will have to run the maximum of 14 hours and Cooper 10. You cannot run more than four hours in a six hour period, so we each have to do our part.

“As a driver I am excited at the prospect of just running two guys. I will be saving as much energy as possible leading up to the race.  We will be working with our physio team and be prepared as possible. There is no real pressure on us. If the car runs trouble free and some of the other Pro cars have problems we may get a top five result.”

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.