GRT Magnus Secures Podium at Rolex 24 At Daytona
KBruComm January 27, 2020 0
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (January 27, 2020) – In the first race under the new banner of GRT Magnus, the No. 44 Flex-Box Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO of John Potter, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, and Marco Mapelli began its 2020 race season with a strong second place finish at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team ran a perfect race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener, completing 765 error-free laps on the 3.56 mile circuit.
The No. 44 Lamborghini showed strong speed all weekend, but a gearbox issue forced the team to skip Thursday’s qualifying session. Spencer Pumpelly would be forced to start from 16th, but he immediately set the best lap times in class, jumping up several positions in the first 20 minutes to run ninth. He made it as high as fourth before pitting, making way for John Potter to next command the stint. He ran a clean stint, maintaining ground until Andy Lally took over and turned his first laps with two hours and 30 minutes complete. Marco Mapelli completed the rotation, bringing the car up to first by the six hour mark.
The teamwork of the drivers and the strategy calls from pit lane continuously kept the No. 44 up front, able to fight the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini for the lead. Throughout the night hours, the race stayed clean, resulting in a spectacular battle between both machines. At midnight, the GRT Magnus team performed a brake change in chilly temperatures, and hunkered down to ride out the remaining five hours of night racing.
With 413 laps complete, the GRT Magnus Lamborghini came alive in the cold temperatures, and again led the GTD field. As each hour of competition was marked off, the GRT Magnus team showed they were to be a strong contender for the No. 48 for the remaining hours. The sun came up at 7:00AM, and teams immediately started calculating the best fuel usage and pit stop strategies. In no time, the No. 44 with Lally at the wheel was leading driver Madison Snow in the No. 48 by eight seconds. A full course caution brought the top five GTD cars back on the lead lap, and a nail-biting four car battle for the continued to the wave of the checker flag.
One pit stop in particular showed the caliber of the GRT Magnus crew, beating the Paul Miller Racing car out of pit lane. Cautions bred cautions, and every lap presented a battle on track and in pit lane. Each team fight for every tenth of a second, and with 40 minutes to go, the No. 44 gave up the lead to make a final stop. While the Paul Miller team also needed to make a final stop, in the end, the team rejoined in second, and maintained position until the checker flag, having led a total of 99 laps. While the team certainly had a program, car, and team worthy of a first place finish, the group had run a perfect race that resulted in a second place finish.
The team will have their next chance to pursue victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 18-21 at Sebring International Raceway. While only half of the distance of the Rolex 12, the Twelve Hours of Sebring brings its own challenges, with a track surface known for being aggressive to cars and drivers. Full time drivers John Potter and Andy Lally will be joined by Spencer Pumpelly, where the trio will try to best their 2019 second place finish.
I say this with a bit of sadness because second place at the 24 Hours of Daytona is really kind of a sad thing when you’ve won it before. It was a great race, and I’ve got three great co-drivers. I knew them last year since we all drove together and it was great to have a much better result this year and prove what an awesome car we have, what an awesome team we have, and people we have. Even though there have been a few changes and it’s now GRT Magnus, there’s still a lot of the core elements there. And a lot of those new elements we brought in really shone well. It was a great race. Thank you to Gottfried Grasser and the whole crew.
2004, 2006, 2010, and now 2020. I finished 2nd at the Rolex four times. I’ve won it five times, and I’ve got a third place finish here in 2008. So that’s a 10th podium. It’s my ninth top two finish and these are my optimistic ways of suppressing the “how close we came to win another Rolex.” But it’s a good start to a season points wise, it’s a great start to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. I’m not sure where we’re at, but we’re going to be first or second I think. Just massive thanks to GRT Magnus for putting together a strong car that lasted really well for 24 hours, and thank you to Flex-Box for continuing their support of this program.
This is my 19th time doing this race, this is my third time finishing second, but what I really loved about it was that we were in contention the whole time. This used to be a race that if you finished the whole 24 hours without any mistakes that you’d win the race. Now it’s gotten so competitive that you really need a lot of pace, you have attack the whole night, you need to have perfect strategy, you need to have no mistakes and more. We were right there. We finished 20 seconds back, but we slowed down significantly at the end when we knew it was out of reach. I think we were only about 10 seconds on the road when we finally decided to give up the fight with a couple minutes left. To be that close after that much racing, it says a lot for everyone who put this effort together. It says a lot for John, Andy, and Marco, all the Grasser guys and the Magnus guys that came together. This effort was pretty mashed together when we first got here, but the guys did such a phenomenal job in the pits and with the car I just can’t say enough.
I was upset when I jumped out of the car because I wanted to win, but the 48 had something more at the end of the race, so we finished second. The team did a good job because, this partnership with Grasser is brand new and everything was brand new. Especially the organization from the Roar. Building up from the Roar, I finished a 24 hour race with no damage and no mistakes. Everybody’s happy so this is a good success and good points for the team for the next races.