Magnus Racing team owner John Potter says the much-debated late-race pit strategy employed by Audi Sport Team Land and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was fair and within the rules, firmly downplaying any controversy surrounding the matter.
In the final hour of the California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, all three Audi teams were running close together leading up to the final stop.
Both Land and WRT elected to ignore the series-mandated 117 second minimum time for pit stops with a tire change, opting instead to release their cars as soon as the service was complete and accept the associated drive through penalty while Magnus adhered to the minimum time.
Because of circuit’s uniquely short pit lane and fast pit work, the Land and WRT cars were more than able to make up for the time lost by the penalty by virtue of their shorter pit stops and gained a sizable advantage over their counterparts at Magnus as a result.
Potter said his eventual racing-winning team was well aware of the the strategy that Land and WRT chose to employ, and that they were likely to do so, but several factors made the decision unviable for the full-season Pirelli World Challenge entrants.
“The other two Audis chose to do a different strategy and bet that the speed that they did in pit lane would more than offset the penalty, and I suspect that that’s something they practiced a lot,” Potter told Sportscar365.
“We were very familiar with the rule. In fact, Audi even told us that the other teams were going to do it, so we knew it was going to happen.
“We chose not to do it being new to the series and these rules, because the key to making that strategy work is the speed of the tire change. You have to make up the speed in pit lane to more than overcome the penalty that you have to serve.
“I don’t think it was a manipulation of the regulations. I’m a newcomer to this series so I don’t want to speak out of line, but if it were my perspective I might choose to make the penalty severe enough to discourage it, but it is not currently that way so what they did is very fair.”
Land Motorsport team director Christian Land said his team had been examining this option all weekend and chose to use it because they felt it gave them the best opportunity to win the race.
“We have had a lot of meetings the whole weekend, and for sure we know all the regulations here,” he told Sportscar365. “Laguna Seca is quite a short pit drive through.
“We were thinking all weekend about that, if we have a chance to get there. Then we did it at the last pit stop.
“We refueled, did a quick tire change, and went out directly and took the drive through.
“It was all fine in the regs. For sure it’s not a good decision to make such things in the race, to calculate with the drive-through penalty, but it was our only chance to come back to the lead.
“The drive-through is so short, only 20 or 22 seconds, and when we wait in the pits for the 117 seconds, we lost more time.
“That’s why we made the decision to take the drive through.”
“Incredible Day” for Magnus
Despite adhering to mandated pit stop time, the Magnus entry of Kelvin van der Linde, Markus Winkelhock and Pierre Kaffer claimed victory in the race, thanks to the South African’s late-race pass on the Land entry of Christopher Mies.
“This was an incredible day for our team,” Potter said. “It was an honor to work with Audi Sport in this type of capacity to begin with, and to walk away with a victory shows our ability to fight with some of the best teams in the world.
“I couldn’t be happier with everyone on this team, who in an entirely new series were prepare for this with very little lead-time.
“Our drivers fought all race long and never gave up up, and it’s great momentum to head in to the off-season. Of course none of this would have been possible had it not been for the tremendous partnership of Audi Sport, and we appreciate the opportunity.”