Chip Harp | Live from Road Atlanta and the Petit Le Mans
ATLANTA – In anticipation of the upcoming IMSA season finale at Road Atlanta in Braselton, I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Ferrari driver Cooper MacNeil.
MacNeil is, at 26 years old, on top of the world. The Illinois-born son of the owner of WeatherTech, the massive weatherproof merchandise manufacturer, has always had the opportunity to enjoy life. With WeatherTech’s involvement in motorsports, MacNeil has already posted an impressive career in sportscar racing, including 5 starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not to mention seasons in the US-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series, and the all-Ferrari Ferrari Challenge series. Whether driving some of the world’s fastest sportscars, driving in the biggest races, or flying to events in the company jet, MacNeil is an interesting guy.
CH: Cooper, yours is one of the more interesting stories in IMSA racing as, though you drive, your family’s business is also a significant presence in the sport. WeatherTech is series title sponsor, title sponsor of Laguna Seca, and of course sponsor of your team. Which came first, your driving aspirations or WeatherTech’s involvement in racing?
CM: WeatherTech does so much for motorsports that some of it gets overlooked. In addition to the series title sponsor, Laguna Seca, and my team, WeatherTech also sponsors many different club level grassroots motorsports events. For example: Ferrari Club, Porsche Club, SCCA June Sprints, Brian Redman historics, etc. We are very proud to give back to the world of motorsports and will continue to do so for quite some time in some capacity.
CH: Over the past years you’ve moved from driving Mercedes, to Porsche, to Ferrari. How difficult is it switching cars like that (in driving and learning the behavior of the cars on the track)?
CM: It is a bit difficult as all three cars are vastly different. The Ferrari however suits my driving style the best and I feel at home behind the wheel of that car. It would take a lot for me to drive something other than the Ferrari at the professional level again.
CH: I believe I read Balance of Performance (when the race series officials “balance” cars by adding weight or limiting horsepower) frustrations led to some of your manufacturer changes, though you settled on Ferrari. How frustrating is it, as a driver and team member, to earn an advantage in a particular car, only to have it taken away in the interest of “balance”?
CM: It’s frustrating but it’s also understandable. IMSA has a very difficult job balancing a wide variety of makes and models. What’s even more frustrating is when cars that everyone knows should be BOP’d, are not. Their system isn’t perfect but I recognize they’re working hard at fine tuning their BOP process.
CH: You drove at Le Mans this year. Can you describe the experience as a driver to participate in that great race? How different is it each time you have been involved?
CM: I’ve driven at Le Mans 5 times now. Most notably finishing 5th in GTE PRO in 2014 in a Porsche with only one other co-driver, 3rd place in a Ferrari in 2017, and this year finishing 5th in a Ferrari. Every year is very different than the previous because the field changes and anything can happen at 200mph with race car drivers being race car drivers. I take it one lap at a time and focus on finishing first, in order to finish 1st.
CH: Finally, what are your personal goals career-wise as a driver? What would you consider to be a successful career?
CM: I’d like to win a few more championships and of course, stand on the top step at Le Mans. That would be a dream come true.
Look for MacNeil and the entire field of prototype and GT racing machines at the upcoming Petit Le Mans, held at Road Atlanta in Braselton. The 2.54 miles circuit is one of the best venues for racing in the country. The historic course has been home to racing since the 70’s when it hosted Can-Am. The race will be held over 10 hours and reward the IMSA series champion on October 13th.