Two drivers in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen are coming into the race on a high from podium finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ben Keating and Cooper MacNeil finished first and second, respectively, in the GTE-AM class in the granddaddy of endurance races two weekends ago, and are looking to repeat or improve on that success this weekend in the seventh round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“I’ve just been riding a high all week long,” said Keating, who took his first — official — class victory at Le Mans in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage with Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen. “It’s still a little bit surreal, especially given the details that happened in 2019. I’m still dealing with some PTSD over that. It’s still kind of surreal that we did it again, and this one has stuck.”
Keating won the GTE-AM race on track with a Ford GT in 2019, but the car was disqualified for having a 0.1L greater fuel capacity than the rules allowed.
Keating will be contesting the Six Hours, as he has in the other IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car with Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker. The trio won the 12 Hours of Sebring and are leading the IMEC points. While the LMP2 car and the Aston Martin GTE car are very different beasts, Keating says he has little trouble adjusting and learns things from each.
“The best example I can think of is Sebring, where I was really, really happy with my qualifying in both series [IMSA and WEC]. That was one of those situations where I learned a lot that I was able to use in each car,” he explained. “I learned a lot about how to go quickly around that particular track at that particular time, and I was able to use it between both cars. And I really, really enjoy driving both the LMP2 car and the GTE car.”
MacNeil will be driving a different car than he raced at Le Mans as well, but sticking with the GT theme. After finishing second in a GTE Porsche at Le Mans, MacNeil will be back in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 in GTD PRO for Watkins Glen, partnering with Maro Engel and Mikael Grenier.
A couple of issues knocked MacNeil and company off winning stride at Le Mans, but they took plenty of positives away from the 24 Hours.
“It was a great race for us and the team,” he said. “Obviously we wanted to win the race but we had a few things that set us back, including a front brake change that we had to do in the early morning on Sunday that the Aston Martin didn’t have to do, so we lost some time there. As well as being extremely unlucky yet again with the safety cars. It’s unique to Le Mans because there are three safety cars, so unless you’re right with the leader, you can get separated pretty quickly and easily through no fault of your own — which is exactly what happened to us, losing almost four minutes because of the way the safety cars fell. So, quite the comeback to finish second place. Pretty happy with that. Obviously you want to win the race, but any time you’re on the podium at Le Mans is quite special. So some good momentum for the team, for myself, going into Watkins Glen.”
Of course, the flip side to Keating and MacNeil are Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. The Corvette Racing GTE-PRO cars were quick at Le Mans, qualifying first and second, and running at the front until Taylor and Garcia’s No. 63 that they shared with Nicky Catsburg struck mechanical problems. Then the No. 64 of Nick Tandy, Tommy Milner and Alexander Sims was taken out Sunday morning while leading.
“It was obviously a shock,” said Garcia. “It’s been a while since we retired from such a big race like this. Le Mans has always been tough for everyone, but I didn’t expect to retire before going into Sunday. Disappointing on one hand, but on the other hand, I was happy with the performance.”
Fortunately for Garcia, the No. 3 GTD PRO Corvette he’ll race on Sunday with Taylor is a different car in a different configuration, and the team already has an endurance racing victory this season at Sebring.
The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen gets the green flag at 10:40 a.m. ET on Sunday, with the the full race (as well as Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session), streamed live on Peacock. USA Network coverage of the Six Hour begins at 3 p.m. ET.