TEAM RELEASE: Front row start for MacNeil, Bleekemolen in ALMS GTC at VIR
Cooper MacNeil, and Jeroen Bleekemolen will start from the GTC class front row in the American Le Mans Series Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) tomorrow, Oct. 5.
MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill) and Bleekemolen (Monte Carlo), who are the GTC Championship point leaders, were the fastest in this morning's practice and second quickest in this afternoon's practice. With that in mind, the team thought it had a really good shot at putting the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche on the GTC pole. Bleekemolen qualified the car and was on the provisional pole more than halfway through the 15-minute qualifying session. He turned a lap of 1:52.610 (104.538 mph) over the 3.27-mile, 17-turn undulating road course.
With just a couple minutes remaining in qualifying, the No. 66 Porsche bested Bleekemolen's effort. Bleekemolen knew he had only one more shot, just before the checkered flag dropped, to put the No. 22 machine on the GTC pole and he went for it. Though he did not better his time, he and his co-driver MacNeil will start from the front row.
"The car has been running great," Bleekemolen said after qualifying. "We've had a good run all weekend. But, unfortunately we did not maximize it in qualifying. We we're very consistent, which is good for the race. But, we just didn't get that extra bit out of the tires, which we've been able to do many times this year. For some reason, we couldn't do it. We will learn from it and try to take the last pole of the year at Petit [Le Mans].
"It's flat out for everyone now. You can't hold back. You can't play it safe here. You have to go for it. You have to win the race - or try to win the race. We have to be there [at the end] to maximize our points. Petit is a long race. Anything can happen there. But, it would be nice to have a bit of a [point] margin going into Petit. So, that is what we are going for [here]."
"Qualifying went pretty good," MacNeil said. "I think we have a really good racecar for the race. It's really consistent, especially on old tires. We're starting on the front row so we can't complain. We've just got to keep our heads down for the race and hopefully be there to take the checkered flag.
"We only lead the Championship by four points," he continued. "Some people talk about running conservatively to get as many points as we can, but personally we're here to win. That's what we came here to do. So, we're going to go fast, take chances and see what happens."
"We thought we had we had a really good chance to put the WeatherTech Porsche on the pole this afternoon because Cooper and Jeroen were both fast in practice," Team Owner Alex Job said. "Jeroen did everything he could in qualifying to make that happen. Though we're not on the pole, the front row is a great place to start. Cooper and Jeroen are leading in the GTC Drivers' Championship and the team is second in the Team Championship point race. So, we will definitely look to win this thing tomorrow."
The television broadcast from VIR will air at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, Oct. 6 on ESPN 2. Live streaming of the race will begin at 2 p.m. (EDT), Saturday, Oct. 5 on ESPN 3.com.
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing with 70 wins (since 1995); including two Rolex 24 GT Class wins in 1999 and 2013. This record is supported by 48 pole positions and 106 podium finishes. The team has won four championships (GTC 2012, GT in 2004, 2003 and 2002) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts nine Sebring 12-hour wins.
The ALMS GTC category is specific to one of the most popular factory produced racing cars in the world, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Developed for Porsche's one-make series around the world, the new version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is based on the road-going 911 GT3 RS. The power unit featured in the new 911 GT3 Cup is largely identical to the production engine of the 911 GT3 RS with the same output of 450 bhp and the same maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm.