The future of Magnus Racing is unclear, following a turbulent end to its 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season that saw the team lose out on a GT Daytona class victory, an additional podium finish and a potential class title due to rules violations.
The team’s No. 44 Audi R8 LMS of John Potter, Andy Lally and Marco Seefried crossed the line first in Saturday’s season-ending Petit Le Mans, but was stripped of its class victory post-race due to Potter not completing the Bronze/Silver minimum drive time of three hours.
Potter, instead, logged only a single stint of 53 minutes in the ten-hour race, in what the team claims was a misunderstanding with the IMSA rule stating that each season-long paired Bronze/Silver driver must complete the minimum drive time, and not just its third Bronze/Silver-rated driver.
The rule also caught out the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, which initially elevated them to second in class due to Magnus’ infraction, but then was also moved to the rear of the GTD results after a post-race audit by IMSA.
It’s understood the team intended for Potter to only drive a single stint in the race, with the understanding of them forfeiting driver points for Potter only, and the team and his co-drivers still earning points and the result.
That, however, was not in the rules, which were adjusted for 2016 following a similar strategy that helped take Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell to the GTD title in last year’s rain-shortened Petit Le Mans.
While Magnus didn’t catch the infraction until it was too late, its competitors were aware of the situation, even midway through the race.
“He crossed the line first, so I feel a bit for them,” GTD race winner Jeroen Bleekemolen said. “But even before I got in the car, with five hours to go, we were aware of the situation.
“We saw the numbers, so either John had to go in for a long time and they would have been way back.”
Magnus did not elect to protest the penalty and finished with 11th place points.
The team, however, walked away with one piece of hardware, in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup GTD Teams’ Championship, although Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen took the drivers’ title in the four-round contest.
Its class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and podium at the Twelve Hours of Sebring served as highlights of the season.
“We took a very specific approach to this race, with all of our attention firmly on maximizing the points at various stages of the TPNAEC,” Potter said in the team’s post-race press release.
The Petit Le Mans fiasco came just two races after its exclusion from the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR in August, due to a ride height violation that took them out of the GTD championship battle.
Lally and Potter entered the VIR weekend trailing Scuderia Corsa’s Balzan and Nielsen by 15 points but left with an insurmountable 40-point deficit with two rounds remaining.
Magnus protested the exclusion, on grounds that it had a similar infraction, caused by contact with another car in 2014 that did not result in a penalty, but IMSA upheld the ruling.
While the VIR exclusion cast questions into its 2017 program, there are now further doubts on whether the team will continue in any form next year.
It’s understood a return to the WeatherTech Championship is unlikely, with a move to Pirelli World Challenge not being an option due to its single-driver format.
Post-race at Road Atlanta, it’s understood some of the crew indicated that Petit Le Mans could have been the team’s final race.
A team spokesperson told Sportscar365 that multiple options for 2017 remain under evaluation and that further updates will be issued in due time.