On Thursday, Magnus Racing announced that it will return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship full-time in 2018. Team owner John Potter and the previously announced Andy Lally will reunite and drive the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 full-time. Andrew Davis, previously of Stevenson Motorsports, will compete in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events, while Markus Winkelhock will drive the No. 44 in the Rolex 24 at Daytona only.
The move is not much of a surprise due to the fact that Magnus Racing was already listed on the entry list for this weekend’s Roar Before the 24. As per IMSA rules, teams that wish to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona must test during the Roar Before the 24.
Potter is happy to bring his team back to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“We’re excited to return to IMSA competition and our endurance roots,” Potter stated. “Obviously Magnus [Racing] has enjoyed a number of successes throughout the years of IMSA and formerly GRAND-AM, and in our first season with Audi in 2016 we had one of our best seasons to date. Returning to the series for 2018, we feel stronger than ever, not only with an incredibly fast car but also the same crew that took us to victory in 2016, as well as an incredible lineup in Andy [Lally], Markus [Winkelhock] and Andrew [Davis]. The support from Audi over the years has obviously been a big factor, from winning in our first race together at Daytona, to helping the secure the Intercontinental GT Challenge title last October, it’s been a relationship that has proven fruitful and instantly competitive. With our team, I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such an incredible group, and we hope we can begin with immediate success.”
Magnus Racing spent the 2017 season running two cars full-time in Pirelli World Challenge, which was referred to in the press release as simply “another series.” For Sprint races, Pierre Kaffer drove the No. 4 (with Spencer Pumpelly filling in when Kaffer had schedule clashes). Potter drove the No. 44 Audi in the GTA subclass. For Sprint-X weekends, Kaffer and Pumpelly teamed together in the Pro-Pro division for all but one of the weekends. Dane Cameron filled in for Kaffer at Lime Rock. Potter was teamed with Marco Seefried for every Sprint-X weekend except Lime Rock, where Davis filled in.
In the regular Sprint races, Kaffer ended up 11th in points with a best finish of third in the final race of the year at Sonoma. Potter ended up second in GTA points with two second-place finishes (both races at Road America).
For the team’s Pro-Pro entry, Lime Rock was by far their best weekend. Pumpelly and Cameron finished second in Race No. 1, then won Race No. 2. Pumpelly ended up sixth in points on the strength of the Lime Rock weekend and a third in Race No. 2 at Circuit of the Americas. Kaffer was 14th in points as a result of missing Lime Rock. In Pro-Am, Potter ended up fifth in points with a third-place finish in Race No. 1 at Utah Motorsports Campus.
Lally returns to the team from Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian, where he spent 2017 as an Acura factory racer. Lally won two races (Detroit and Watkins Glen) and finished joint sixth in points with teammate Katherine Legge.
Davis comes to the team from the now-defunct Stevenson Motorsports, where he co-drove the No. 57 Audi with Lawson Aschenbach. The duo won the GT Daytona class at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and had an additional podium finish at Road America. The teammates eventually finished seventh in points.
Winkelhock is an Audi Sport factory racer who primarily races in the Blancpain GT Series in Europe. Winkelhock finished second in 2017 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup points (alongside co-driver Will Stevens) on the strength of a Main Race win at Zolder and three additional podium finishes. In a part-time schedule Endurance Cup schedule split between Team WRT and Sainteloc Racing, Winkelhock finished eighth in points on the strength of overall victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Winkelhock has three career Rolex 24 at Daytona appearances. The best of his performances was in 2014 when he was part of the Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 45 team that was originally awarded the GT Daytona victory. Reasoning: A very controversial avoidable contact time penalty was given to the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari after the race.
The “avoidable contact” penalty was assessed for Winkelhock being run off the road in the Kink by Alessandro Pier Guidi on the final lap. As you can see in the clip above, there was no contact. The penalty was rescinded hours later.
2018 will be Lally and Potter’s sixth full season together as teammates. In 57 races together, the duo have six victories together, including two class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (2012 and 2016). Their best points finish was third in 2013, the last year of GRAND-AM’s GT class.