Watkins Glen, NY (August 13, 2012)- Still glowing in the aftermath of taking victory at both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the North American Endurance Championship, Magnus Racing came in to this weekend’s Continental Tire 200 full of confidence. After suffering a devastating cockpit fire at the same circuit just one month earlier, drivers John Potter, Andy Lally, and the entire Magnus Racing crew came in with one simple goal: winning. With a new sponsor in Magnus Ridge Winery, located just up the road from Watkins Glen International Raceway, the team had extra incentive to perform.
With the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT championship seeming out of reach, the entire crew of the no. 44 Magnus Ridge Winery Porsche 911 GT3 Cup knew that going for race wins would be the only way to fight for series top honors.
Starting from the fifth row, Team Owner and Driver John Potter took the green flag and survived a wild first lap. With the point leading no. 69 AIM Ferrari and no. 57 Stevenson Camaro making contact headed in to the first turn, the entire Rolex Series GT field would swerve in a number of directions to try and avoid contact. Managing to stay clean throughout the chaos, Potter would proceed with a trouble-free stint to open up the two-hour race.
Just past the 20-minute mark, however, a key moment in the race would unfold. When the no. 9 Daytona Prototype of Darren Law and no. 40 GT Mazda of Joe Foster made contact, a hard impact by Foster in to the Turn-11 outer barrier would bring out an extended caution period while track officials cleaned up the incident.
While many GT teams elected to pit for fuel and tires around the 25-minute mark under caution, engineer Lars Giersing made a critical decision not to pit during that time. By GRAND-AM rule a driver must drive a minimum of 30 minutes, meaning Giersing would elect to hold the no.44 out for two more laps while the cars circulated under caution, allowing Potter and Lally to switch and keep Lally in for the rest of the event. With the no. 44 pitting just as the field took the green flag, the loss of track position was exchanged for an advantageous pit strategy, as the Magnus no. 44 and no. 94 Turner BMW would be the only cars to circulate without having to perform an additional driver change.
With Lally running several fast laps, the Magnus Racing team was left to simply sit and wait to see how the strategy would unfold. As the race continued on, the strategy appeared to be working, as the no. 44 sat in fourth headed in to the final series of stops, with the top two cars needing to change drivers. With the hope that final driver changes might slow the leading cars, both the no. 94 Turner BMW and no. 44 Magnus Porsche seemed to be in the most favorable position to fight for the win, as neither had to change drivers during the last dash for tires and fuel.
Unfortunately, during the final round of pit stops, an unusual jam in one of the air guns caused a slight delay in the team’s stop, giving the no. 94 Turner BMW, no. 31 Whelen Corvette, and no. 59 Brumos Porsche enough time to complete their stops and stay ahead of the no. 44.
With one final caution closing up the field with a few laps remaining, Andy Lally would have one last spirited battle with the no. 59 Brumos Porsche of Leh Keen in hopes to achieve the final podium position. With Lally visibly faster in some sections of the circuit, the high speed nature of the Watkins Glen “short course” simply proved too difficult to complete a safe pass, and Keen was able to hold off Lally to take the final podium position.
Taking the checkered flag in fourth position, the Magnus Racing crew can take credit in a hard fought race, even if just missing the podium leaves a slightly bitter taste.
“Fourth is always a tough one to swallow,” stated Andy Lally, who grew up a few hours away in Northport, New York. “Lars made some bold calls to get us up front, and we came really close to having it work out. Bad luck on the second stop was definitely unfortunate, but at the same time you have to give the guys credit for fixing the issue so quickly. We could have lost a lot more positions, but the team did a great job to not lose too much time.”
For John Potter, the sentiment is similar.
“Any time we have a shot at the podium and miss it it’s definitely frustrating, but no one did anything wrong,” stated Potter. “We’ve never had an issue like that in the pits before, and the guys corrected it very quickly. Overall the team made some great calls and we almost had it, we’ll just carry this on to Montreal.”
With only three rounds remaining in the Rolex Series championship, the Magnus Racing team heads in to the final races with a strong focus on winning. With the high speed, hard braking nature of the Montreal circuit next, all attention is focused on the race in just six days’ time.
The Montreal 200 will take place on Saturday, August 18, with SPEED coverage taking place at 7PM ET.
Magnus Racing will continue to provide updates and coverage throughout the week via their Facebook (facebook.com/RacingMagnus) and Twitter (@MagnusRacing), as well as via www.magnusracing.com. You can also follow Andy Lally on Twitter (@AndyLally).
More information about Magnus Racing can be found at www.magnusracing.com. Any organization interested in learning more about how to be involved with one of the most unique and visible teams in sports car racing can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All press inquiries can be directed to email@example.com.
To learn more about Magnus Ridge Winery, visit their website at www.magnusridge.com.