Birmingham, AL (April 1, 2012)- Headed in to the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park circuit in Birmingham, Alabama, Magnus Racing came in to the weekend as not only the reigning GT champions of The Rolex 24 at Daytona, but also as the current points leaders in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT championship. With the second round of the series now behind, both facts still remain.
With the constant, sweeping turns of the Alabama circuit presiding as the biggest feature of the track, this weekend’s Porsche 250 was assumed to favor the lighter vehicles such as the Mazda or the Ferrari, if for no other reason than tire wear. In spite of the deficit, Magnus Racing drivers John Potter and Andy Lally had their eyes firmly set on getting the best possible result.
“With Daytona behind us, the focus is very solidly on the championship,” stated John Potter, Team Owner of Magnus Racing. “Obviously the best way to achieve that is winning as many races as possible, but we also don’t want to take any risks that can cost us big points.”
After being forced to switch engines during Thursday practice due to a rare failure on the Porsche motor, the team was hoping that the worst of their luck was behind them. Following a smooth qualifying effort on Friday by John Potter, the team came in to Saturday’s race with high hopes.
Starting the no. 44 Porsche GT3 Cup in 11th, Magnus Racing’s John Potter put in an impressive opening stint. Not putting a wheel wrong during the first 45 minutes, John not only drove mistake-free, but also kept within sight of the lead pack, turning lap times on par with everyone in front of him. Most importantly as it would turn out, John did a great job of taking care of his fuel use.
Around the 45-minute mark, many of the GT teams had already pitted for fuel and tires, however the no. 44 and a handful of other teams managed to stay out. When an opportune caution period was thrown, the group of cars who had yet to pit were handed a major advantage as their position on track allowed them to cycle around to being almost a lap up on their GT competition.
Using this opportunity to pit for fuel, tires, and driver change, it was now up to Andy Lally to drive the rest of the way, hoping to continue his 100% win rate for the team so far.
As the race unfolded, Lally made remarkable work of the field in front of him, taking part in a strong battle among the top-four. As the race wore on and tire wear began to show, Lally was at his best. Pushing fellow Porsche driver Leh Keen’s no 59 Brumos vehicle to the limit, the two would be involved in a several lap battle that struck a delicate balance between over aggression and patience.
As pit stops cycled through, it was clear that many of the teams, including the no. 59, would have to pit early enough that they may have needed to make a third stop for a “splash” at the end. As Lally circled around longer and longer, the no. 44 would only have to make a second stop.
With pit stops cycling through, the no. 44 team would lead briefly before making their own error-free stop. With only 45 minutes to go, the Magnus team would look comfortably in the top-five, now playing “the waiting game” as they hoped for the cars in front to either pit again for a last gasp of fuel or risk running out entirely.
Unfortunately, with only 10 minutes remaining, a late race caution would buy the leading cars much needed fuel mileage, thus eliminating Magnus’s strong strategy call. When the green flag fell again, only three laps remained, and though Andy Lally would put together a strong run for the podium, patience prevailed and the team settled for a strong fourth-place finish.
While not a podium, the team still walks away as the points leader over the now-tied no. 59 Brumos drivers of Andrew Davis and Leh Keen and no. 60 Speedsource duo of Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito.
For John Potter, a productive points day is a good way to leave the track.
“Obviously we’d like to leave the track with a trophy, but we’re not disappointed at all,” stated Potter. “The guys did a great job getting the car turned over and ready after Thursday’s engine change, and Andy gave it a great effort as well. Overall I think we proved ourselves well, and it’s a good to race this well at a track that traditionally doesn’t favor the Porsche.”
For Andy Lally, a strong car was the most rewarding part of the day.
“It was great to have the car as competitive as it was all weekend long,” stated Andy. “Between Thursday’s problem and the ability to not only turn the car around, but turn it around and keep it as fast as it was is a good sign moving forward. John also did a fantastic job in the opening stint. There were some really strong guys up front and he stayed in the thick of it. We’ll head to Homestead now and push as hard as we can.”
Headed in to the next round at Homestead-Miami Speedway, twelve rounds still remain in the championship, and it remains anybody’s game. The Grand Prix of Miami will take place on Sunday, April 29, with live coverage featured on SPEED.
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 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 email@example.com. All press inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.