Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, John Potter looks back on Magnus Racing’s memorable class win at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
What do you remember from the build up to the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona?
“The 2016 Rolex 24 was a very special race for us in a lot of ways. Up until that point, even before Magnus Racing started, my sole experience at a professional level was with Porsche.
“Magnus had been running exclusively with Porsche machinery since the beginning in 2010, so to run with Audi and the R8 LMS GT3 for the first time, we wanted to really show well.
“We’d come off of a tough 2015 season, and we came in to 2016 with a renewed focus as part of debuting the new Audi.
“Of course we won a very hotly contested Daytona 24 in 2012, the 50th Anniversary, and we were eager to prove we could do it again. It’s so tough to win that race, and we were hungry.
“The hype itself was particularly special, as we really put a lot of effort into our “brick figure” themed promotion, a lot of which you may not find on the internet now, but I felt like our Daytona launch video, our posters for the fans, brick figure giveaways, etc., all ramped up a lot of attention and fan favoritism.”
What memories do you have from your stints in the car?
“They all kind of blend together to be honest, but that’s kind of a good thing. If they blend together, that means nothing exciting happened, and for me that’s what I want.
“My job was to fulfill all my drive-time requirements and do so without any issues, and luckily that happened.
“I remember getting out of the car when it was all over and knowing that it was in the hands of three very capable of teammates, and we were in a really good spot to contend.”
At what point did you realize you had a very good chance to win the race in class?
“The truth is the pace of the Lamborghinis when the race began were incredibly strong.
“Nearly all of the Lamborghini entries were running away, and all of the teams had their work cut out for them, until miraculously the two lead cars, both Lamborghinis, ran in to each other.
“All of a sudden we were back in the fold. We always race to win, and that attitude meant we were in a position to win when things started falling our way.
“The Audi made great fuel mileage, and honestly. with our driver lineup, I felt like we had one of the best on the grid, so as the race unfolded it became a true team effort.
“We knew fuel strategy would be our strength, and we started playing that card very early in the race. When you start playing to that sort of strategy, between having the mileage, yellows, etc., you never really know if you’re going have a good day until the car crosses the finish line.”
What was the post-race celebration like?
“Nothing like it! My oldest son Jack was old enough to be there, so it was now a family affair, something that didn’t hold true in the 2012 win as I wasn’t even married yet.
“The team was ecstatic. It wasn’t just that we won, but the last 40 minutes were some of the most suspenseful we’ve ever had. We were able to take the lead on a fuel gamble, and in previous years that same strategy hadn’t worked.
“You can find the clip on YouTube from our webstream, but the last 40 minutes were incredibly tense.
“There was a mixture of opinions from six different people on the timing stand all yelling, for 40 minutes straight, and tension couldn’t have been higher.
“Every lap René Rast was getting different directions on how much fuel he had to save, the No. 540 Porsche was coming up on us fast, and we honestly had no idea if we’d win until we crossed the finish line.
“I think half the emotion in the whole team was just the release from all of that. It was cool to get everyone on the team up on the podium with us. It was a true team affair.
“Six weeks prior the entire crew had a car they’d never seen before, and now we’d won the biggest race of the year, it was truly special.”
What do you do with your Rolex that you won in that race?
“I pawned it. This racing thing is expensive! Actually it’s on a watch winder in a special, secure place in my home. It’s one of my most prized possessions and something I’m really proud of.”