12 Ways Magnus Earned Second in the Final Rolex Season
With the final-ever GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season behind, the team at Magnus Racing is well under way toward preparing for the 2014 season. With the first series’ test just a few weeks away, the crew is focused forward on the months ahead.
“There’s a ton of work in receiving, learning, and developing an all new car,” stated Magnus Racing team owner John Potter. “It really hasn’t been much of an off-season, but at the same time everyone should be proud of the work they did in 2013. Sure, it wasn’t the result we were hoping for, but it was an incredible team effort to keep ourselves in contention all year.”
Looking back on the year, Magnus Racing held the championship point lead for much of the 2013 Rolex GT season, and ultimately took second; the result of a consistent, never-say-die attitude from everyone on the team. Ultimately, the team finished ahead of the No. 57 Camaro by just one point, and only 10 points shy of the GT champion No. 63 Ferrari.
Here are 12 moments that ensured the team finished as well as they did:
12. First Pit Stop: Detroit Grand Prix. The tricky Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit, Michigan, is notoriously difficult to pass at. Even worse, the tight and bumpy corners aren’t exactly known for favoring Porsches. When the No. 44 Flex Box Porsche joined the entire Rolex GT field as they came in for the first stop under a yellow, the Magnus Racing crew advanced the car from seventh to fourth. Gaining three valuable positions, and the points to come with it, Andy Lally was able to keep the field behind him to take fourth on the day.
11. Pitting Early: Circuit of the Americas. With the long, twisty nature of the Circuit of the Americas appearing to favor the tube-framed cars as well as the stronger braking Ferraris, Magnus Racing held thedistinctionof spending much of the race as top Porsche, but out of podium contention and in a distant fourth.Electing to takethe risk of making their last pit stop early, the team’s strategy played out perfectly. With the car out on track with enough fuel and tires to go the distance, a timely yellow just moments later would force the rest of the field to pit under caution; advancing the No. 44 to the lead, and ultimately second on the day.
10. Avoiding a Penalty: Rolex 24. With the MagnusRacing No. 44 leading a large portion of The Rolex 24 at Daytona, the team’s fortunes took a dramatic turn during the final two hours of the race. With the pace of the Audis showing strong, the team brought in driver Nicolas Armindo for the final driver change with factory pilot Richard Lietz. During an otherwise faultless series of stops, Armindo made a crucial error when he locked the brakes, sliding past the pit marker he was supposed to stop at. The car remained inside of the “box,” however in order to refuel, the team’s fueler would have had to do his job outside of the box lines. Had this happened, the team would have endured a stop-and-go penalty, ending any hope for a good result. Instead, the entire team calmly evaluated the situation, rolled the car back, and continued with the stop. Even though they lost several seconds in the process, it was a calm, level-headed decision that prevented a much more costly penalty.
9. Andy’s Closing Laps: Six Hours at the Glen. When it comes to having a driver do the impossible in the closing moments of a race, Andy Lally is about as good as it gets. During the closing laps of the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, the native New Yorker proved just that. Facing a track that had gone from wet to dry, and running a long stint with faded tires, Andy closed a massive gap to the leaders during the waning laps. When he took the white flag in fourth, the team figured the race was over, but Lally surprisingly managed to pass the No. 93 BMW of Billy Johnson through infamous bus-stop chicane, and brought the team the third podium of the year.
8. John’s Qualifying: Detroit Grand Prix. When it comes to street racing, track position is of premium importance. On the streets of Belle Isle, Detroit, John Potter knew that he’d have to maximize all that he could out of qualifying, and on a track not known for favoring Porsches. Piecing together a remarkable lap, Potter out-qualified all other Porsche entrants to sit on the third row. That sixth place ended up being critical, as it put Potter in a track position to pit the car within sight of the leaders, ultimately allowing the team’s first pit-stop and driver swap to advance the car to fourth. Fourth at Detroit, while not much on paper, was a performance that kept the team in the championship hunt.
7. Lally’s Opening Stint: Indianapolis. Even if the team’s third place finish wasn’t quite a repeat of their winning performance one year earlier, the commitment of Andy Lally to keep the car up-front never failed. With the strategy decision to extend fuel mileage, Lally was tasked with the all-too-often dilemma of having to manage his car for a long distance, but meanwhile hold pace and keep the field at bay. Never was this more evident than at Indianapolis. Lally was off to a great start, literally making a four-wide pass on the outside, and making an impressive charge through the field. As fuel began to cycle through, much of the field would come in during a mid-race caution, however the team elected to keep Lally out, forcing him to keep the field behind as he lead; but with older tires. This would lead to a legendary battle with fellow Porsche competitor Patrick Long in the No. 73 machine, and gave the team ideal track position for their final stops, where they’d eventually take third.
6. Data Monitoring: Barber Motorsports Park. While winning is an important part of a championship, an equally critical piece is simply finishing. Never was that more evident than with the team’s finish at Barber Motorsports Park. As Andy Lally drove his final stint in the car, a small puncture to the radiator would cause major concern, with all attention switching to the team’s data monitoring. With Porsche engineers looking closely, both team and driver worked together over the radio to nurse the car home and maximize their finish despite an overheating engine, with Lally ultimately finishing sixth. Building their case for the championship, the team’s finishing position would prove incredibly valuable, defying the possible retirement they could have faced.
5. Splitter Repairs: Rolex 24. The front splitter on a sportscar, an attachment to the nose which helps create front downforce, is an extremely important part of the car’s performance. At the high speeds of Daytona International Speedway, it’s even more important. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most fragile parts of a Porsche. This was evidenced throughout this year’s Rolex 24, as the bumps and curbing of the circuit proved too much for the piece, with the front splitter coming off very early in the 24-hour run. Knowing this possibility, Magnus Racing preparation was critical, as the team’s rehearsed splitter change was executed perfectly in the pits, with the team only losing seconds in the repair. Little would the team know that this would be the first of several splitter repairs throughout the next 22 hours. In each of the countless swaps, the team executed flawlessly, ultimately keeping the car on the lead lap for the finish, and nearly winning.
4. Second Stop: Mid Ohio. You’ll notice a recurring theme when it comes to the team’s championship run: pit stops. Magnus Racing’s second place at Mid Ohio was yet another reflection. With an endless series of twists and elevation changes at the famous Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the team was once again challenged with keeping the rear-engined Porsche competitive with the other marques. Again, however, the team proved instrumental in advancing the car through pit work. Advancing the car in to the top-five during the first round of pit stops, it was the team’s second round of stops in green flag conditions that would prove critical. Knowing that every tenth of a second can add significantly when pitting under green, the Magnus Racing crew was perfect. Many other teams would faulter during this round of stops, including two separate incidents and penalties for the team’s two main championship rivals. With the stop putting Lally in prime track position, it would play a critical role in his eventual second place on the day.
3. Everything: Laguna Seca. Simply put, the team’s victory at Laguna Seca was the result of… everything. John Potter drove one of his career-best stints to open the race, advancing the car several positions before the first round of pit stops. During the first pit stop, the team advanced the car four positions en route to second on track. With track position being critical, the team made the daring strategy decision to lay back on fuel and finish the race on one more stop. As a result, Andy Lally had to maintain position and pace, meanwhile saving every ounce of fuel. This daring strategy call would leave the No. 44 out when many others would dive in to the pits, eventually pitting on the outer edge of the fuel window to make it to the end. The team would deliver yet another perfect pit stop, and then it was up to Lally to nurse it home. The rest of the field would have to make one more stop, and as a result Lally would take the lead with a charging field behind on him; all on fresher tires. Somehow he managed to hold everyone off for the team’s lone victory of the year, and regaining the point lead in the process.
2. Getting the Car Back Out: Lime Rock Park. Heading to the championship finale in Lime Rock Park, Magnus Racing held a small point lead, with the knowledge that a second place would guarantee the team’s hopes. Unfortunately, all championship hopes ended on the second lap when the No. 66 TRG machine would send John Potter spinning in to the line of on-coming traffic. The resulting impact from two different cars was enough to do significant damage, with the car being towed to the paddock. Surveying the damage, it was easy to assume the car was finished, however not for the Magnus Racing crew. Knowing that if John Potter could get back on track 30 minutes later he could be credited with driver points, and if Andy Lally did the same the team could get full running points, the team sprang in to action. With every crew member seeming to intuitively know his role, the car was repaired, re-aligned, and back on track just over 30 minutes later. The team would eventually be credited with a finish, and the points to go with it, which ensured the team took second in the championship… by one point.
1. Repairing the Front Radiator: Kansas Speedway. No one would have known it at the time, but the team’s misfortune in Kansas Speedway may have just been the most critical part of the championship. When Andy Lally ran over an errant track sign in the middle of the course, the resulting puncture to the radiator would send the No. 44 in for repairs. Thanks to the team’s preparation and rehearsal, the radiator was changed in nine minutes. Similar to Lime Rock, the team never lost focused, and understood the urgency to make repairs as quickly as possible and get back on track. As race attrition mounted, the team managed to advance one position on the very last lap. That position was worth one point, and as it turns out, had the team gotten the car out just 30 seconds later, Magnus Racing would have been third in the championship.
Source: Magnus Racing