SEBRING, Fla. (March 16, 2014)- Following one of the most up-and-down races in the history of the event, a complete team effort by Magnus Racing would overcome a number of obstacles to take victory at the 62nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Acting not only as the first Sebring victory for the team, the feat would also take the honor of becoming the first-ever victory for Porsche in the GTD category of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“It’s still very surreal to be here,” stated team owner John Potter. “Having so many challenges throughout the race made for a very exciting 12 hours, and I’m still in a bit of shock that we came away with a victory. It’s a perfect testament to the work of not only Andy and Marco, but especially this fantastic crew. The guys had no shortage of challenges yet their preparation kept us in contention, and that’s why we’re here today. It’s also great to finally get a big victory for Flex-Box who have been with us for many years looking for this type of result. It’s just amazing.”
Starting the No. 44 Flex-Box Porsche 911 GT America in tenth spot, Potter would take opening duties as the green flag fell. Shortly into the race, when the No. 33 Viper GT3-R brought out a lengthy caution due to a car fire, it became clear that the round-the-clock event was going to be a unique one, and the race failed to disappoint.
After a clean opening stint, the Salt Lake City resident was comfortably setting a pace on par with the leaders with the team quietly waiting for the race to unfold. Unfortunately, halfway through his second stint the No. 94 Turner BMW of Dane Cameron would make contact with the left rear of the Magnus Porsche sending Potter spinning into the dirt, but luckily avoiding contact with any barriers. The impact with Cameron, and more importantly a large patch of dirt, was significant enough to damage the right-front grill, but luckily the team avoided more significant damage.
Able to stay out until his fuel cycled through, Potter would eventually make his second scheduled pit stop swapping out for team newcomer Marco Seefried. Amazingly, as the driver change occurred the team was able to repair the front grill with minimal time loss and Seefried resumed competition on the lead lap.
Climbing his way through the field, the experience of Seefried, hailing from Germany, proved critical. Unfortunately, as Seefried continued to push, the damaged right-front grill continued to be problematic as the team’s efforts to repair the area quickly meant that continued service would be required in subsequent stops. Luckily, an unusually high number of caution periods allowed the team to continue to work on the area without major consequence.
With Seefried cycling through and climbing into the top five, the team elected to put John Potter back into the car for the middle portion of the race. Knowing his job was simply to hold position and run a clean stint, Potter clicked off a number of impressive lap times eventually handing the car over to Andy Lally who had literally stayed out of the car for the first five hours.
Despite the damage to the car’s front end, Lally immediately set a pace that showed the strength of the Porsche, as the Georgia resident continued to push hard on his way back into the top five. Following a great battle with several cars, Andy brought the No. 44 into podium contention by the time he hit his second stint and the team began to realistically look poised for a podium.
That was when the second disaster struck. As Lally went through the gears, the car all of a sudden failed to shift, which for the Magnus team was eerily reminiscent of problems at Daytona. Following a number of procedures to try and get his gear-shift mechanism working while still on track, the problem was unable to be solved bringing Lally in for a pit stop and driver change.
The team instantly went to work on the air compressor system that engages the gear change, an identical service to what happened in Daytona. In typical Magnus fashion, the repairs, plus Lally’s slow lap into the pit, only put the team one lap down. With five hours remaining there was plenty of time for the team to get back in contention.
Knowing that Andy Lally would need to be fresh for the end, Seefried, who’d already done a double stint at the very bumpy circuit, would end up doing a triple stint to carry the car into the final stages of the event. The German drove notably, with attrition and pits cycles carrying the car to third and even briefly leading.
With just over 90 minutes remaining, Seefried’s series of stints would come to an end as Lally jumped back in knowing that the team had a legitimate shot at a podium.
Sitting in second with an hour to go, the ultimate pace of the No. 44 proved difficult to catch the leading No. 23 Porsche and with a number of cars approaching behind him, the team knew the final pit stop would play a critical role.
It was at the 45-minute mark that the team’s final winning component, strategy, proved decisive. As a prototype began to come to a stop on the track, quick thinking by the team called Lally in for his final stop just before the yellow came out.
Proving a critical decision, the No. 44 would come out of the pits in third, but with the knowledge that the two cars in front would require a pit stop, and since they were under caution he had already caught up to them. The strategy worked perfectly, and as pit stops cycled through, Lally was handed the lead with 30 minutes to go.
With the overall pace of the damaged No. 44 still proving difficult, it was now up to Andy to finish the job having the monumental task of going as fast as he could to keep his competitors behind. Playing the faster traffic perfectly, Lally did just that taking the checkered flag in first to the surprise of everyone.
Beyond serving as the first Sebring victory for the team, Potter, and Seefried, it would also serve as the first victory at the event for Lally who has now completed his collection of major endurance victories in North America.
“I still can’t believe it. We won Sebring,” stated Lally. “I just don’t have the words to describe it, what a team effort. Everyone on this team was just perfect. Perfect job by John and Marco, perfect pit stops, fast repairs, and a brilliant call at the end. Sebring has always been the one that escaped me, and we finally, finally did it. I can’t thank everyone at Magnus, and everyone at Flex-Box, enough for making this a reality.”
For Marco Seefried, who finished second in the event last year, his first major North American victory will be a memorable one.
“What a crazy race,” stated the German. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many yellows in my life, but we managed to make it work. This whole Magnus team is just amazing, and to win at Sebring is a major accomplishment for my career. I’m just very thankful for the opportunity.”
Magnus Racing, and the entire GTD category, will now take an extended break from competition as the series heads into the more traditional “sprint” season. The team will return to competition on May 2-3 in California, racing at the storied Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.