BRASELTON, Georgia (October 6, 2014)- Following yet another wild endurance race in the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Magnus Racing withstood a chaotic event to take third-place honors during Saturday’s Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. This would serve as the team’s fifth podium for the year, shoring up fifth in both the GT-Daytona (GTD) category Team and Driver’s championships.
“It’s great to close the season with another podium,” stated Magnus Racing team owner and co-driver John Potter. “To have had such an up and down season, we came here wanting to build momentum into the off-season and I think we’ve done that. It’s actually bittersweet as we might have even finished higher if things had shaken out differently at the end, but any time we can come home with a trophy it’s still satisfying.”
Starting from the ninth position, John Potter would take opening duties for the No. 44 Flex-Box Porsche 911 GT America. Having recently tested at the circuit just weeks earlier, the Utah resident came in with a renewed confidence, and as the race unfolded, it showed. Setting times on par with the lead pack, Potter maintained a healthy gap to the top group of cars, all without putting a foot wrong.
When a timely yellow would come out for pit stops, the team elected to keep Potter in the car for a double stint on the foundation of his strong showing. Running a second stint even better than the first, Potter continued to run lap times that maintained with the lead pack, so much so that when the time came for yet another pit stop, the team elected to keep John in for a third stint.
Running yet again with the same consistency as the first two rounds, John kept the car clean and continued his faultless run eventually making his third stop under an ideal caution period, handing the car over to teammate Marco Seefried having completed his minimum drive time before the three-hour mark had arrived.
“I’m admittedly very proud of that stint,” stated Potter. “I think this may have been my first triple stint, and it felt great. The car was easy to drive and the team did an excellent job of keeping me informed and on top of the race, and I think it showed.”
With team returnee Marco Seefried back in the car, all focus now turned to moving to the front. Seefried, who last drove with Magnus during their victory at this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring, was instantly on pace in the Porsche. Knowing that his job would be to drive a series of fast stints and back-and-forth runs with teammate Andy Lally, the German made immediate work of the field in front of him. As the various driver rotations worked their way through the competitors, the No. 44 threatened for the top five with the team confident that they’d further advance with Seefried and Lally doing the remaining hours.
After a clean first stint, the team elected to keep Marco in for a second getting the team close to the halfway point before Andy Lally had even taken the wheel.
As the stint progressed, an extended series of yellows would draw the race on further and further with track conditions changing, and equally important the “build-up” of tire rubber on the outer portions of the racing surface increasing. Unfortunately for Seefried, this would get the better of him during the later portions of his stint. Cresting the hill on the way to the treacherous Turn 12, a rare mistake would put the car in the thick of this off-line debris, and as the car lightened over the hill, Seefried was sent spinning on the approach to the corner with Marco doing a great job to get turned around and recover quickly. No substantial damage was done to the car.
With his tires now sufficiently worn, the team would bring Seefried to the pits in favor of Lally who was getting his first taste of the machinery near the halfway point. Having dropped down the order as a result of Seefried’s spin and pit stop, the Georgia resident would have the difficult task of trying to re-advance as quickly as he could, with the team knowing a strong middle stint would create better options for them as they started considering race-ending strategy.
Once Lally found his rhythm, it was business as usual and the march up field once again continued. Steadily gaining ground, by the halfway point the team once again looked set for a top five, and by the time Lally’s first pit stop would come the team was in contention for a top three.
With Lally now in his second stint, all focus shifted on a podium and possible win until once again disaster struck. With the No. 44 running some of its best times yet, the left front tire had a surprise blowout through the back straightaway with Lally immediately slowing to preserve his car but also trying to minimize the time lost. Limping his way back to the pits, the positions gained during his opening stint were all for not as by the time the team was able to make their full-service stop, they were now a lap down.
With a caution period following shortly after, clever strategy by the team would put them back on the lead lap, although at the tail end and with four hours to climb back.
Marching back through the field yet again, Lally had the car poised for a top five by the time his stint would come to an end, handing the car back to Seefried just past the six-hour mark.
It was in this pit stop that the team would once again suffer another setback, this time in the form of their radio. In the process of the driver change between Lally and Seefried, the mechanism that holds the driver’s in-car radio was damaged, meaning the drivers could hear the radio commands of the team but could not speak back.
With Seefried behind the wheel, the team would spend the majority of his stint trying to diagnose the problem, and with three hours to go they would examine the issue once an opportune caution came to perform a scheduled pit stop. Determining there was nothing they could do to fix the problem in time, the team simply had to manage the situation from there on out.
Completing a strong double stint, Seefried was up to fourth with just under two hours to go when the car was handed over to Lally for the final time.
Climbing to third, Andy would drive in a spirited battle with the No. 23 Porsche of Mario Farnbacher with just over an hour remaining, successfully holding him off and eventually forcing the German into a mistake.
With the team electing to bring the No. 44 in for its final stop with just 50 minutes remaining, a perfect stop would mean clear sailing for Andy who would go to the checkered flag without the ability to speak back to his team.
As pit stops cycled through, the No. 44 was in a strong third and as the laps continued, it looked likely to stay that way. However, with 15 minutes to go, a heavy incident would bring out the race’s final caution and once again bunch the field up for a sprint to the finish with six minutes remaining.
Once the green flag fell, Lally was unfortunately pushed wide through the tricky Turn One by some optimistic traffic, being forced to high-side the curbing and falling to fourth in the process.
Doing his best to hold position through the final two laps, the team was resigned to a fourth-place finish until a surprise last lap incident with the No. 23 Porsche would advance Lally up to third, taking back the podium position a mere three turns from the finish.
An ecstatic team would celebrate, resulting in their second podium at Petit Le Mans, fifth podium during this year’s 11-race season, as well as securing fifth in the Team Championship and for John Potter in the Driver’s rankings. It would also seal Magnus as the only GTD team to win for Porsche in the inaugural 2014 season.
“What a crazy race,” stated Lally. “I couldn’t talk to anyone during those last few hours, and that made it tough. I like to know everything that’s going on around me when we get in a situation like that, so driving blind is extremely tense, but I’m glad we were able to pull it off. Everyone on this Magnus crew deserves such high praise for their efforts, and I’m happy we could deliver this today. We were the only Porsche team to win all year, and fifth in the championship for the team and John is not a bad way to go, so we should all enjoy this.”
Echoing the sentiments, Marco Seefried has enjoyed a 2014 season in which he has had a 100% podium success rate. At the Rolex 24, driving for another team, he was third, followed by his victory at Sebring with Magnus and now Petit Le Mans.
“I can’t believe that finish,” stated the German. “It’s such a great feeling and everyone on Magnus deserves this. They’re such a fun and talented team that you can see why they have as much success as they do, and I’m glad that I could be a part of it. It’s great to go home with yet another trophy, what an incredible season.”
With the 2014 season now over, the team will turn their attentions to a number of matters in the off-season. With no firm announcements in place, stay tuned for several upcoming developments concerning the team.