Magnus Racing heads for PWC with two Audis

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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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.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III