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.

F1: USGP post-qualifying reactions on NBCSN

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Here are post-qualifying quotes from drivers following the session today at the United States Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton extended his record with 72 poles and then broke a tie with Michael Schumacher for his 117th front row start.

TOP 3 WORLD FEED INTERVIEWS – WITH NBCSN’S WILL BUXTON

1. 44-Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

“The team have done a great job. Track was very difficult with the wind picking up. There was a head wind into Turn 1, then a tail wind out of 1, then Sector 1 tail wind, then a head wind into 9, so it shifts through the lap. You have to gauge how hard to push. That’s why I love this track, especially when you have a car this good.”

“I think it’s highly unlikely (to clinch the championship). Sebastian did a great job to bring the Ferrari back up there. Ultimately all I can do is the best of my abilities.

“Sebastian’s right there. Unless he makes a silly mistake – which is quite unlikely as he’s a four-time World Champion – we’ll see it continue on to other races.”

2. 5-Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

“I was very happy at the end but was lacking a bit of rhythm first to second sector. Finally I got it right at the end when it mattered. I believe our race pace is very good. Quali, we’ve been just a bit behind. Congrats to Lewis.”

3. 77-Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes

“Definitely disappointing. It was looking good, quite close with Lewis. Disappointing but there’s always tomorrow.”

OTHER INTERVIEWS (Alonso, Ocon, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Hartley with Buxton; rest with BBC Radio 5 Live reporter Jennie Gow, while Buxton was handling world feed top three) 

4. 3-Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull

“Happy with what I did in the last run! Today overall not really, until that last run. We were a bit off the pace. We found something. I’m just more happy with how we turned it around. I was 10th in Q1, but then we made it less than half a second. Let’s go for win number two. That sounds a lot sweeter and has a better ring to it!”

5. 7-Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari

“Probably not (as to get the most out of it). This is what we got today. Some places were more difficult. It was hard to get it right. Some laps were good. It was difficult to put a lap together. I don’t know. I have no idea how tomorrow will go.”

6. 33-Max Verstappen, Red Bull (has 15-spot grid penalty; will start 18th)

“Everything seemed to work pretty OK. I made two big mistakes in the last run. I was surprised to be that close (to them). I should have been near Sebastian. Look at sector times; it all looked OK. If you make two mistakes, it’s not all there. It’s my worst qualifying of the year.

“In qualifying we lose a lot on the straights. We get close. I have to fight harder. I’ll try to show tomorrow what I didn’t do today.”

7. 31-Esteban Ocon, Force India

“I feel sick all the session. Massive headache. I took something during session. My stomach was upside down. I’m not going too close to you. Hopefully can recover and be ready to attack tomorrow.”

8. 55-Carlos Sainz Jr., Renault

“(I’m) very happy with that, and how everything’s gone so far. It was quite tough track conditions with the wind is picking up. You have to know how the car will react. I built it up over the whole session, more than a second. P8 with a penalty in front of us, I think we can be pretty pleased with that. Just want a clean race. Don’t want anything more than that. We’ll see what the strategies are. I’ve been focusing on short running so far. A clean race, if we do that, we can be in the points for the team.”

9. 14-Fernando Alonso, McLaren

“It felt great. We had difficult conditions. Very windy and quite hot. The grip was lower than we expected. The McLaren car performed extremely well. We went into Q3. In Q3 we were ninth, and we’ll be eighth with the Verstappen penalty. A great chance to score points. (with long straights, maybe not as bad?)

“We’ll see. We seem to compare with the other teams. There’s still a deficit on the straights. We’re a little bit exposed in first lap in the group. After that’s settled, we can open the gap in high speed section and defend better. We’ll try defend these first laps as best we can.”

10. 11-Sergio Perez, Force India

“It was good. We had good pace in the car today. But my qualifying was compromised big time when Kevin (Magnussen) blocked me. I had to use an extra set. So in Q3 I only had a single set. It was strange; it was quite understeery. Lost 4 tenths to Q2, and that meant P10. Definitely tomorrow I will be able to recover, move forward. It’ll be a tricky run. There are a lot of things that can happen. It’ll be important to get a good race in. Crossed fingers! (to survive Turn 1).”

14. 8-Romain Grosjean, Haas

“Yeah, it’s been a tough weekend. I didn’t run any ultrasofts before quals. Then I spun before. The one on Lance Stroll was close. I was lucky not to spin in the grass. That would have been the end of it. We made it to Q2, which was good I thought. We closed the gap from 0.7 to 0.3, but we haven’t been performing that well. It’s not the upgrade that’s been the issue; it’s been more tire-related. And that’s why we’ve had such a swing in performance. Malaysia nowhere, Japan we’re good, now here it’s mixed.

“(On Haas Hill:) That was amazing. The support we have here is insane! I waved at them in quali after I was done. I’m sure the fans will give us something special.”

15. 27-Nico Hulkenberg, Renault (has 20-spot grid penalty, will start 19th)

“(Not running is) not by choice but it is what it is. We have the plus-20 engine penalty. It doesn’t make sense to keep running. We want to keep the flexibility in strategy to start on whatever tire. We have been reasonably competitive and have a big challenge on our hands right from the back. I’m trying to be positive. Hopefully can overtake a lot of cars. Look forward to better racing.”

18. 39-Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso (has 25-spot grid penalty, will start 20th)

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back. Put a lot of focus on long runs. Getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today. Free practice three had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far. I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone! It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half. A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”