On Tuesday afternoon, WeatherTech Racing announced that they will be moving their backing from Riley Motorsports to Scuderia Corsa for 2018. WeatherTech sponsorship will adorn the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 for the Van Nuys, Calif.-based team. Cooper MacNeil will move to the No. 63 along with the sponsorship
MacNeil will be joined full-time by the returning Alessandro Balzan, two-time defending GT Daytona champion alongside Christina Nielsen. The announcement satisfies what Balzan told Frontstretch after Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans. MacNeil’s current teammate, Gunnar Jeannette, will join the team for at least the Rolex 24 at Daytona along with Jeff Segal.
For MacNeil, Scuderia Corsa is a team that he’s already comfortable with. Earlier this year, MacNeil teamed with Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler to race in the GTE-Am class at Le Mans. The trio finished third in class. Also, MacNeil has driven for the team in Ferrari Challenge. He’s quite confident in his new digs.
“It was a natural for [WeatherTech Racing] to transition into the Ferrari with our experience with the brand this season,” MacNeil said in a press release. “I am looking forward to driving with Alessandro [Balzan] and we will be looking to equal the success the team had this year in IMSA and finish a couple places better at Le Mans too.”
For MacNeil and Jeannette, the highlight of their season was their victory at Long Beach back in April. They also finished fourth in class at Watkins Glen in July. The rest of the season was a struggle. Anger over Balance of Performance led the team to break out a Porsche 911 GT3 R that they owned independently of Riley Motorsports.
Balzan, who is entering his fourth season with Scuderia Corsa, believes that there won’t be a skip in performance.
“I am confident it is going to be another great IMSA WeatherTech season with Cooper in 2018,” Balzan stated. “[MacNeil] shows to be pretty comfortable behind the wheel of the Ferrari 488, with his great performance this year during the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Championship and scoring his first podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Scuderia Corsa 488 GTE. Cooper’s solid results are a strong basis to have a successful 2018 season and I can’t wait for Daytona.”
The move creates a couple of more openings. Both Jeannette and Segal had full-time rides in 2017, Jeannette with WeatherTech Racing and Segal with Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. Riley Motorsports’ Bill Riley told RACER’s Marshall Pruett at Road Atlanta that he hopes to field two Mercedes-AMG GT3s in 2018. WeatherTech Racing ran the second Mercedes-AMG GT3 prior to their Porsche switch
Segal drove full-time in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 alongside Oswaldo Negri Jr., but struggled during the season. While the No. 93 won two races and was quite competitive, the best Segal and Negri could muster were a pair of fifth-place finishes (Daytona and Detroit). They also failed to finish five races. With Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian losing factory status after this year, the team plans to be back in 2018, but to what extent is still unclear. What is clear is that Segal won’t be back in the No. 86.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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After winning the GTD championship the last two years. Christina Neilsen is out at Scuderia Corsa any rumors as to what she is going to do next year.