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MAGNUSSEN: Petit Le Mans Debrief

Jan Magnussen files his final Sportscar365 column of the year…

Photo: Jan Magnussen Racing

Photo: Jan Magnussen Racing

I was super, super thrilled at how this whole thing ended up with the very last GT championship in the ALMS. It was a fantastic and amazing feeling.

For the first half of the race at Petit, we were in the fight for the race win. We were there, or there abouts, leading the race on different occasions.

But just after halfway, we missed out on a safety car, which put us one lap down. We never really got ourselves in a position to get that lap back.

After that, we immediately changed our approach. It was no longer about trying to win the race but trying to make sure we didn’t let the championship slip away through some stupid mistakes.

We just took it easy and made sure that we made it – kept a good eye on the 56 car – and just drove our own race.

The end of it was obviously exciting, looking at how the situation was, but there was no real drama at any point.

I think the most amazing thing about the year is that we came back from scoring zero points at Sebring then getting into a position to win the championship.

We ended up in quite a safe position, too, as we didn’t have to win the race to clinch it. We had a good cushion going into the last race.

It says a lot about Corvette Racing as a team, that, unless we have bad luck, we could go out and produce results every single time. That’s what gave us the championship.

Halfway through 2012, we were leading the championship. But then, everything we touched seemed to go wrong for us. We couldn’t get through first corners, we had stuff happening in the pits and just all the little things that could go wrong, did go wrong.

It was in the minds of everybody this year and that’s what kept us focussing on being perfect.

Antonio has been a fantastic teammate. He’s been super fast. I have to say his win at COTA was really all his own. I don’t think a lot of guys out there could have done what he did.

I think we were close to being the slowest car on track there and to pull out a win, like he did, was absolutely fantastic. That was a key win in our season.

When we were in GT1 there were only the two Corvettes. We really, really fought between ourselves just so that we could stay sharp for when some of the competition came back to race in the US or we raced in Le Mans.

I think that’s why we’re still strong. It’s because we’ve never stopped fighting. We really had some fierce battles on the track. In a competition like this, in the GT field, to have won the manufacturers, teams and drivers championships two years in a row, is pretty fantastic for any team.

It was fantastic to also win the “Most Popular Driver” award in the final year. I know a lot of the votes came from Denmark but also the whole Corvette community pulled together. It’s such a great honor to get a prize like that and I can’t tell you how proud I am.

Looking back at the ALMS, it’s sad to see it go away. When I originally got the phone call to come out and test the Panoz GT1, first of all, I had no idea what kind of car that was. It was the first time I really had to consider myself a sports car driver and if that was a direction I wanted to go in my career.

I had just gotten out of Formula One and I was obviously looking for something else. At that point, I was thinking this would be a good entry into America and maybe on to IndyCar or something like that. But after falling in love with the car from the first test, I knew straight away that America was where I wanted to make my career.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter and I knew I wanted to be in the ALMS. Fifteen years later, I was still in the ALMS. I was there in the beginning and I was there in the end. It’s been a fantastic time in my life and I owe Don a big thank you for not only giving me an opportunity to drive his car but also for setting up this championship that became home for so many drivers around the world.

Obviously the most exciting thing about next year is the new C7.R. I can’t wait to start working with that car and see where that takes us. In terms of the whole championship, everyone is still waiting to see what it will be like.

I don’t think everything is 100 percent set in place for the new series and there’s still a lot of stuff to be sorted out before we have a proper championship. But there’s the possibility of making something great, better than anything else previously. But everyone has to agree to do it in that way. Let’s wait and see.

I’m really looking forward to Daytona to see what the whole thing will be like.

The same weekend I won the final ALMS championship, my son, Kevin, won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship. He absolutely dominated on the last weekend.

In the first race on Saturday, he was under pressure but he did what he needed to do, got the win and took the championship. Then on Sunday, he went out and absolutely annihilated everybody. That was a big step forward for him and his career.

His future looks very, very bright at the moment.

I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of him. What he’s done the last couple of years, the way he’s changed as a person and a driver and how he’s grown up, makes me unbelievably proud. It’s really hard to put into words.

Jan Magnussen (@janmagnussen) is a four-time class winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two-time ALMS champion, driving for Corvette Racing in the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship.

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