- Published: Thursday, 04 February 2016 05:00
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 3, 2016)- In one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona, Magnus Racing played a daring fuel strategy to limp across the finish line in first, taking victory in the GTD category by just over three seconds. This would serve as the second victory at Daytona for the team, the first victory for driver Marco Seefried, second for drivers John Potter and René Rast, and fifth for Andy Lally.
“It’s pretty overwhelming to return to victory lane,” stated team owner and co-driver John Potter. “This race had such an endless series of ups and downs, straight down to the final laps, that I think everyone on this team was overcome with emotion. This was such a team victory, I couldn’t be happier for everyone here.”
As the debut for the No. 44 Audi Tire Center Audi R8 LMS in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, the process of just getting to the race has been a hard-fought road for the team. With zero experience with the machine, the team has had a busy off-season since taking delivery, taking part in an endless series of tests and simulations. Running through the holidays, taking victory at Daytona was the perfect reward for what had been a busy winter season.
After a challenging qualifying, Andy Lally would take on starting duties for the twice-around-the-clock adventure. Knowing that this would serve as one of the most competitive fields in series history, the Northport, New York native simply managed his time as he came to paces with his machine.
When an opportune yellow would present itself, the team opted to remove Lally for John Potter, with the Salt Lake City resident fulfilling the first of a required five hours behind the wheel. Despite having never raced the Audi R8 LMS before, Potter was impressive in his debut for the marque.
Setting lap times within site of the top contenders, John would keep the car on the lead lap throughout his run with the team opting to put him in for a double stint.
As the afternoon fell and the evening rose, Potter would finally pit in favor of Marco Seefried who immediately made work of the field in front of him, slowly moving up through the top ten. Eventually Seefried would give way for René Rast, who demonstrated his ability as a Audi factory driver by taking the car in to the lead as the evening hours continued.
With all four drivers cycling through overnight, the most noteworthy moment came in the complete lack of incidents of missteps throughout the tricky hours of the night. With the key to winning an endurance race lying in a problem-free run, all signs were positive for Magnus as neither driver nor crew made a single misstep overnight.
The same could not be said for the leading No. 48 and No. 16 Lamborghini’s, however, as contact between the two dominant leaders would set the stage for a non-Lamborghini victory, something that up until that point did not look likely. From that point on, there was a palpable change in the atmosphere with the crew at Magnus realizing victory was possible.
As the sun rose, all attention shifted to setting up the race for the final two hours, with drivers Andy Lally and Marco Seefried driving multiple shifts as the team kept René Rast fresh for the end.
When the time came for Lally to pit for the final time in favor of Rast, the entire team knew that they were just outside the window to do the race in one more pit stop.
Under the assumption that a yellow would come, Rast merely did his laps, ultimately taking the car to the lead as the team turned their attention to fuel strategy.
With no yellows coming, it was time for Rast to make one more stop with just under an hour to go, making it questionable that he could go the distance on fuel. With the rest of the GTD field in the same position, the majority of the field would pit for a splash of fuel in the remaining laps, guaranteeing they could make the distance.
Magnus Racing, however, opted to stay out and the next 45 minutes became a constant series of coaching over the radio as the team calculated what sort of fuel numbers Rast would need to make it to the finish, all the while maintaining a gap to the field behind him.
As the laps ensued, the No. 28 Lamborghini who was questionable on fuel, would eventually catch the No. 44. With Rast unable to provide a challenge, the team fell to second with only a few laps to go. Miraculously, however, the No. 28 would sputter eventually making way to Rast as he ran out of fuel.
From that point on, it was about conserving fuel and keeping an eye on the second place No. 540 Porsche who was fast approaching with no concerns for fuel. As the No. 44 circled the track for the last time, the tension was high within the team due to the uncertainty he could make it, and a combination of relief and elation would fill the pits as he took the checkered flag.
Proving just how close the team ran on fuel, the No. 44 would actually run out of fuel on the cool-down lap, with Rast having to be towed to victory lane.
“It was absolutely incredible,” stated Rast. “The last time I drove for Magnus we won, and to come back and do it again is amazing. This car was absolutely perfect. The last stint was probably the hardest of my life. They kept yelling different lap times and fuel numbers at me, sometimes five or six times a lap, and it was clear that it was going to be close. It was a huge relief to see the finish line, and I couldn’t be happier for this entire team.
For Andy Lally, celebrating his fifth Daytona victory, elation is high.
“What an amazing finish,” stated Lally. “These guys had such a rough 2015, and with all the work they put in during the winter, their preparation really showed. This was a team victory. Perfect pit stops, no mistakes from the drivers, and excellent pit strategy down to the end, unbelievable.”
For Marco Seefried, the sentiment is shared.
“Finally, we won this thing together,” stated Seefried. “Magnus has now provided me with wins at Daytona and Sebring, I couldn’t be more thankful to be here and for the opportunity provided. This was a crazy race, but we pulled it off, I couldn’t be happier for this team.”
While the next race is not for another seven weeks at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, there is little down time for both Magnus and the entire series, as there is an upcoming Sebring test in just a couple weeks, as well as several other prep items for the team.