Photo courtesy of IMSA

Magnus Racing heads for PWC with two Audis

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Magnus Racing will, in fact, saddle back up for another tour of racing in 2017. The difference is, rather than competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as they have since 2014 (and its forerunner, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, prior to that since 2010), the team that balances humor and professionalism in equal doses will now run a two-car effort in Pirelli World Challenge.

Magnus will have a two-car Audi R8 LMS program. Team owner John Potter will be one of the cars, with an Audi Sport customer racing factory driver to be revealed at a later date in the second car.

As PWC shifts formats to both Sprint (50-minute races, on IndyCar weekends, one driver) and SprintX (60-minute races, standalone weekends, two drivers), Magnus will compete in both components.

“When evaluating our options for 2017, we thought it was a good opportunity to pursue a new challenge,” stated Magnus Racing team owner and driver John Potter. “When I consider that I’ve driven in pro racing for 10 years, I realized that very little of it has been in a sprint format, and the timing seems right to see how we enjoy it.

“This will be a new era for the team, not only because of the new series, but with the emphasis on sprint racing and solo driving we have to take a whole new approach. Running a two-car team has been an ambition of ours since the beginning, and while we’ve had some experience with two-car programs at The Rolex 24 at Daytona, the unique format of the Pirelli World Challenge provides us an opportunity to really explore this.

“We really appreciate the friendly and open nature of everyone we’ve met in the Pirelli World Challenge so far, and of course to everyone at Audi for their renewed partnership.”

Magnus’ IMSA run has ended after last year’s Petit Le Mans, following the team’s second post-race penalty assessed in the final three races. Although Potter’s co-driver Andy Lally delivered a storming final stint that saw him pass Jeroen Bleekemolen for the GTD class win, Magnus was dropped to the rear of the field following a minimum drive-time violation where Potter, the paired Silver-rated driver, did not complete his necessary time. A ride height infraction at VIR after contact from another car two races earlier saw the team score no points altogether.

For Pirelli World Challenge President/CEO Greg Gill, the opportunity to bring in a team with the heritage and character of Magnus Racing is a welcome one.

“We are extremely honored to have the team at Magnus Racing join our series for 2017,” Gill said. “Their success on-track speaks for itself, and coupled with their reputation for fan engagement and off-track fun is something we really enjoy, and we’re confident the team will have a great experience here.”

Tristan Herbert, Manager of Motorsport and Customer Racing at Audi of America, hailed Magnus’ contribution to the manufacturer. After running Porsches for years, Magnus won its Audi debut at last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“The strength of Magnus Racing became instantly apparent when we won our first race together, at the biggest event of the year.” Herbert said. “From there the team has seemed to go from strength to strength, and it’s been impressive to watch how they operate.”

The Magnus confirmation joins the CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Ryan Dalziel) and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (Jon Fogarty) as high profile either team or car additions to the GT championship this year. RealTime Racing has also added SprintX drivers Mark Wilkins and Tom Dyer to complement full-season drivers Ryan Eversley and Peter Kox in their two Acura NSX GT3s.

Plenty of other GT class confirmations should follow from other manufacturers over the next couple months, before the St. Petersburg season weekend opener March 10-12.

Penske drivers lament missed victory at Road America (VIDEO)

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Team Penske dominated the entire Kohler Grand Prix weekend at Road America, twice going 1-2-3-4 over the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and then doing the same in qualifying, with Helio Castroneves taking pole from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud.

However, race day represented a missed opportunity. Though Castroneves led early, it was Newgarden who emerged as their best hope for victory following a spectacular outside pass on Castroneves entering turn 1 on lap 19. That put Newgarden in the lead, and he seemed to be in full control.

Still, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon had been stalking the Penske foursome all race long, and sat behind Newgarden in second for a lap 30 restart. With Newgarden on primary blacks and Dixon on alternate reds, Newgarden was somewhat of a sitting duck, and Dixon muscled his way into the lead with an equally spectacular outside pass in turn 1, with Newgarden briefly falling to third behind teammate Castroneves.

Josef Newgarden led several laps, but could not find his way around Dixon for the win. Photo: IndyCar

Although Newgarden regrouped, overtook Castroneves during the final pit stop sequence, and closed to within a second following a restart with seven laps remaining, he was never close enough to make a move for the win.

Even though the Team Penske drivers all finished in the top five, going 2-3-4-5 with Newgarden leading Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power, missing out on victory was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car,” Newgarden revealed in the post-race press conference.

He added that an ill-timed lap 28 caution for a spinning Takuma Sato ultimately put paid his chances of victory. “The caution didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict that stuff. It hurts when it comes at the wrong time. That’s pretty much what happened today. With (Tim Cindric calling the strategy), I feel confident with all our decisions, everything those guys do on the pit box. Things just didn’t fall our way today.”

For Castroneves, a slight error before his final pit stop saw him pit earlier than the team wanted, due to an alarm that went off in the cockpit. However, as he explained to NBCSN’s Marty Snider, it was of little consequence to the outcome of the race.

“We mentioned in the debrief that if in turn 14, the blue lights come on, you are to come right away. So I came in. I am sure they had a little buffer, and they knew what exactly was going on. (Race engineer Jonathan Diuguid) said keep going but I couldn’t quite understand him. But at the end of the day it didn’t cost us anything in terms of a win or second place.”

Still, the strong results see Pagenaud and Castroneves sit second and third in the championship, while Newgarden and Power sit fifth and sixth, respectively.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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One of the crazier, most eventful Formula 1 races in recent memory took place at the Baku City Circuit today in Azerbajian.

That makes it a challenge to recap but it’s something NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, along with producer Jason Swales, attempt to do in the latest post-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass.

You can see it below. Thursday’s pre-race edition is linked here. A full roundup of Sunday videos from Baku is linked here.

 

Bottas gives everything in Baku fightback from a lap down to P2

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Valtteri Bottas says he “gave it absolutely everything” after falling a lap down and running last early on in Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Baku before fighting back to finish second for Mercedes.

Bottas qualified second for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, but dropped back after contact with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 2 on the opening lap, sustaining a puncture.

Bottas fell a lap down on the field immediately, but was waved past and able to get back onto the lead lap during the first safety car period.

From there, Bottas produced a stunning fightback, dodging the minefield of incidents through the race to eventually cross the line second after a drag race to the checkered flag with Williams’ Lance Stroll.

“Today was a crazy race, especially for me. I had a puncture on the first lap after the contact with Kimi on Lap 1,” Bottas said.

“I was a lap down, then had to overtake the field under the Safety Car. The second Safety Car after that really helped me out and, step by step, I moved forward from there.

“My main goal today was to fight for the win but that went out of the window after the first lap. I was actually last at one point, but I got my head down, gave it absolutely everything and tried to get the absolute maximum out of every single corner.

“We didn’t quite manage to win but P2 from where we were is a great feeling. Importantly for the team, we scored more points in the fight with Ferrari and I got some good points for myself as well.”

Bottas ultimately finished as Mercedes’ lead driver following Lewis Hamilton’s second pit stop when his headrest came loose, resigning the Briton to fifth place at the checkered flag.

F1: Azerbaijan Grand Prix race videos on NBCSN (VIDEO)

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Videos from today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit from NBCSN are linked below.

Daniel Ricciardo won a chaotic, crazy, bizarre race for his first victory of the season.

With a mix of post-race interviews and in-race highlights, there was a lot to digest. The post-race edition of Paddock Pass will also attempt to recap it all.

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS/FEATURES

Lewis Hamilton

Sebastian Vettel

Sergio Perez

Lance Stroll’s podium “shoey” with Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo’s “shoey” tradition

IN-RACE HIGHLIGHTS

Bottas, Raikkonen tag each other at start of race

Verstappen tries to force Perez into errors at Azerbaijan GP

Verstappen forced to retire in Azerbaijan GP

Fernando Alonso calls for a red flag due to debris

Vettel hits Hamilton in crazy restart

Repercussions possible for Vettel and Hamilton after contact

Ricciardo slings his way to third

Sebastian Vettel relinquishes lead due to penalty

Ricciardo drives to victory, Bottas steals second at the flag