Salt Lake City, UT (July 17, 2012)- Ten days after the conclusion of the busiest time of year for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, the crew at Magnus Racing are already back at work, with all minds now focused on crossing the most famous yard of bricks in the world.
Running an impressive five events over six weeks, one word can describe the entire experience: exhausting. While the challenge for Magnus Racing was no different than any other team in the Rolex Series, a handful of obstacles along the way certainly provided a unique series of difficulties for the team.
Following a fairly routine first two rounds in Detroit and Mid-Ohio, the team’s third event of the “summer run” came at the challenging Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Known for its long straights and fast corners, the team’s high hopes for turning their championship fortunes around took a terrible blow when driver Andy Lally suffered an engine failure 40 minutes from the checkered flag.
With only four days to transport the car to Watkins Glen and roll out for the first day of practice, the car had to travel 783 miles, go through its usual post-race and pre-race rebuilds, and most importantly, swap out for yet another Porsche engine.
Hoping the worst was over, no one could have predicted the unfortunate future for the no. 44 Porsche GT3 Cup just four days later. When an electrical fire caused the entire dashboard to catch fire only 30 minutes in to the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, driver John Potter was left with no choice but to hop out and watch his cockpit burn, with the resulting fire and extinguishing powder covering the car’s interior. For those who have not seen it, click here.
In response to several posts and inquiries, here are the details on the incident and team recovery:
-It is difficult to diagnose the exact cause of the fire. It was clearly related to an electrical/wiring glitch, but with all of the wires fairly melted post-incident, no one at the team or Porsche could make a fair assessment.
-The smoke was fairly constricting for John Potter, so he’d elected to pull off in the NASCAR “short chute” for fear of passing out. The closest fire station was unfortunately several yards away, but on part of a fairly blind, downhill part of the circuit that wouldn’t have been safe to park.
-Every GRAND-AM vehicle runs a mandatory on-board fire extinguisher that can be engaged by a dashboard button. As opposed to many racing cars, the button is actually at the base of the windshield by the drivers’ side, so it was not visible by the on-board camera. John Potter did depress the button, and the system did its job by spraying his legs, as well as the engine and fuel cell. The system was not designed to spray the dash.
-When the car was brought back to the garage, the interior was covered in extinguishing powder, the dash was completely ruined, as was the lexan windshield. Surprisingly, the rest of the car was fine, short of a need for extensive cleaning.
-With only days between the Watkins Glen race and the Indianapolis test, truck driver Dan Lourenco immediately high-tailed it back to the team’s Babylon, New York shop, where he returned 12-hours later with a spare car; the same GT3 Cup that the team ran for the no. 4 Children’s Tumor Foundation entry at Daytona.
-With only 72 hours to get everything done and get to Indy, the eight crew members put in an impressive 136 man hours to remove every usable piece of the “primary” no .44, inspect it, clean it, and change it over to the backup.
-Following six weeks on the road, the team managed to get the car back in the trailer, off to Indy, and they didn’t miss one second of track time when they arrived.
With an insanely busy six week period behind them, the team arrived for one last event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a two-day test.
While the worst was theoretically over, the 105-degree ambient temperature at Indianapolis certaintly didn’t make for a comfortable conclusion to the festivities. With boiling temperatures for both team and crew, the team held their own with the rest, consistently posting times near the top-five, and walking with a solid baseline and bullish attitude headed in to next week.
Taking last week to actually see their families and possibly even sleep, the team is back at the shop, making final preparations for the upcoming Indianapolis race on July 27.
For Team Owner John Potter, it’s a great testament to an incredible crew.
“What these guys have done is just remarkable,” stated John Potter. “I don’t know how many people realize just what goes in to a race weekend. You see it on TV for a few hours, or you come to a track for the weekend, but it’s hard to describe that the guys have already been there for days. It’s impressive what they did through June and July, and I can’t put in to words how appreciated it is.”
With the Brickyard Grand Prix just over one week away, the team is back in to gear and ready for another stretch. While not nearly as demanding as the month of June, the team will run another three races in four weeks starting next week.
This all begins next Friday, July 27, with the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As the final round of the North American Endurance Championship, the no. 44 crew sits in second with a reasonable shot at top honors.
Stay tuned for more exciting announcements, including one very special way the team will be including everyone in the experience at Indy.