IMSA Spotlight: John Potter
Driver/Team Principal, No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS
Follow: @MagnusRacing (Potter isn’t on Twitter)
After being with Porsche for so long, the switch to Audi came to many as a surprise. How did the Audi opportunity present itself and what does it mean to now be aligned with this brand?
“In all honesty we’d enjoyed a great relationship with Porsche since our team started in 2010, and I have nothing but great things to say about our six years together.
“Having said that, we had an opportunity with Audi for 2016 that we simply couldn’t pass up. Like anything, there wasn’t one key factor, but between the race-proven nature of the new R8 LMS as well as some business incentives that Audi Sport customer racing was able to provide, the timing seemed right for the switch. It’s no secret that 2015 wasn’t our ideal year, and a reboot for the team was well-timed.”
On paper, having Marco Seefried and Rene Rast join you and Lally for Daytona made for your best Rolex 24 lineup since the 2012 win. Did you go into this year’s race expecting to win or was it something of a surprise considering all the new elements in this year’s GTD class?
“Specific to our driver lineup, I think we’ve always been fortunate to have some great drivers come through our stable, but yeah, we had an exceptional group in 2016. Marco has become our go-to guy for endurance events since winning Sebring together in 2014, and obviously René is an amazing talent, and we’re very thankful to Audi that he joined us for this year’s Rolex 24.
“We go to every race to win so it wasn’t a total surprise in the sense that we didn’t think we could do it, but your first race with a new car is bound to have some challenges, and our event simply went smoothly. No doubt our driver lineup played a key role, but I think a lot of the credit has to go to the crew who spent all winter learning and testing the car so that we’d have such a flawless event.”
How tense was the race from your vantage point, particularly the last 40 minutes when you didn’t know the fuel situation?
“Oh, it was incredibly tense. If you go to magnusracing.com or our YouTube page, you can witness it first hand with our webcast replay. It’s really tough because at that point, for me personally, it’s out of my hands and I just have to watch like everyone else.
“We have a great team with us and I do my best to let everyone do their job, which means trying not to interfere with strategy and engineering so that there’s clarity in leadership, but certainly in those last 60 minutes I had some strong opinions on what I thought the right strategy was.
“There was a lot of back-and-forth between all of us, but it paid off. None of us really knew how it would all come together until René crossed the finish line, and I think that’s why we were all so excited at the end. It was a combination of relief and elation.”
You and the team have always had a great creative vision and sense of humor, and the animated pre-season video might have been the best yet. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
“I like toys, it’s why I have a race team.
“In all seriousness, in years past we’ve always enjoyed having a fun pre-season video, handout poster, etc., but they weren’t necessarily related to each other. In 2016 we really wanted to do something that was fully integrated… the video matched the giveaway, matched the race poster, etc.
“It seemed to work, but how we top that next year is beyond me.”
How do you balance your driving, team principal and business roles? What are some of your passions outside the cockpit?
“I’m incredibly fortunate to have a great team around me, and we have a key group of people that take responsibility and action and that’s the underlying factor in all of my ventures.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how active the business-side of life is back in Utah, as we have a number of real estate ventures that are always moving. It definitely provides some unique challenges with racing, as there’s never a race weekend where I don’t have a conference call or special project I have to follow up on related to my business. That being said, racing is a great escape, and it definitely provides a lot of incentive to make sure all of my business ventures succeed.
“The race team as a whole is definitely my biggest passion. Driving is obviously a big part of that, but forming a team from scratch, and keeping it going through the years, is also a part of it that I truly enjoy. Like any program there are frustrations, but I genuinely enjoy the technical side of it, the management of people, the politics, the business of it, it’s unlike anything else in the world and it’s a very fun puzzle that you’re constantly re-arranging.
“Beyond that, my various business interests in Utah definitely keep me occupied, but I do enjoy family time, watching my 16-month old son going through some critical development phases in his life is an experience I can’t get enough of.”