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Andy Lally files his latest Sportscar365 column following COTA…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

All I can say after our race at Circuit of The Americas is, it’s great to be back!

What a complete team effort by everyone, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m grateful for any time we can finish on the podium, but Saturday’s race was definitely a memorable one considering where we’d come from.

Put simply, the summer has been tough for the Magnus guys. In 2012 and 2013, it seemed like every race we went to we had a shot at the podium. We’ve always had some of the best pit stops, excellent calls by our engineer Lars, and John has been great during his opening stints.

This year, however, the GTD field is so competitive that if you miss things by just a little bit you fall way down the order, which has been the story of our summer.

It’s not been one particular thing, for whatever reason we’ve been struggling to consistently get in the top-five. In Detroit we really struggled, had a nice little recovery for a podium at Watkins Glen, but from then on we’ve always seemed to be somewhere barely inside the top-10. Between that and some rough luck at races like Road America, it’s just not been our year.

It’s not been for lack of effort, these guys have busting a$$. After every race they’ve been busy looking at every detail on the car, studying the races, and trying to see where we’re missing speed. It’s frustrating, because there’s no clear identifiable problem, and sometimes I even look at myself and wonder what I can be doing differently.

What’s been even worse is there’s been other Porsches who’ve been stronger, which makes it hard to blame the BoP, even if there are some things that we think the series could do differently.

The one thing we haven’t been able to do this summer is heavy testing. With two weeks between nearly every race, there simply isn’t time with a small team to get the car repaired and prepped for the next event, meanwhile fitting a test in between. With the extended break between VIR and COTA, however, we were finally able to get some time in at Road Atlanta.

The test was huge. We worked on several things, had a good agenda, and made excellent progress on the car. Combined with some great BoP adjustments from IMSA, we headed to Texas feeling confident.

When we started the first practice, we knew we had a good shot. Our pace was right on with most of the field, and with our setup for a long run, our Porsche was a good contender.

In qualifying, you really have to make the most of your first couple laps, and I was pretty happy with what I put together. Unfortunately, as the session went on, some of the other marques continued to run fast laps and we eventually fell down to seventh. We’d hoped for better, but we were in good shape for the race.

For the race, John was simply excellent. Every race he continues to refine his racecraft, and this might have been his best yet. He was in a battle for much of his stint, keeping some big names behind him, and all the while kept sight of the front pack.

When he brought the car in to the pits, he was right with the main pack, and that made a huge difference as I began my run.

We set our car up to be strong over the long run of a stint, and as the race went on I was able to get past a couple of guys. Our pit stop for the final stint was perfect, like usual, and I was on my way in the hope of a podium.

With 30 minutes to go I was in third, and chasing down Dane Cameron hard in the BMW. Dane is always tough to get around, but luckily I was able to make a move that stuck and then it was on to Jeroen Bleekemolen in the SRT Viper GT3-R. I could see that I was catching him, but unfortunately ran out of time when the checkered flag fell.

Second was awesome, and a great change for the guys.

John Potter said that this felt like a win, and I definitely second that. The guys have worked so hard to be a top team, it’s time we finally started returning to those roots.

On to Road Atlanta, my home track!

Andy Lally (@AndyLally) is a three-time GRAND-AM champion and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year, currently driving for Magnus Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

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