Magnussen Ready for 100th American Le Mans Series Race Start
LAKEVILLE, Conn.: Jan Magnussen, the only man in the history of the American Le Mans Series to take a victory in every single season, is set to make his 100th series start this weekend at Lime Rock Park.
Magnussen returns to the wheel of the #3 Corvette Racing machine alongside Spaniard Antonio Garcia, eager to celebrate the occasion with his first race victory of the season.
The Danish star will have some added incentive for success this week – Wednesday’s 4th of July fireworks are not just for the famous American holiday, it is also Magnussen’s birthday.
After a challenging weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Magnussen returns to the US after a successful weekend on home soil where he was victorious in a local endurance race as well as collecting a pair of wins in the Danish Touring Car Championship/Camaro Cup.
Magnussen will share the 100th race achievement this weekend with rivals Bill Auberlen (BMW) and Joerg Bergmeister (Porsche) as well as prototype veteran Butch Leitzinger.
After a stunning championship-winning season in British Formula 3 in 1994, Magnussen went on to make his Formula 1 debut for McLaren at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix in Japan. He completed 24 races for Stewart Grand Prix in 1997 and 98 before making his ALMS debut for Panoz at Sebring in 1999.
He spent four seasons at Panoz before making his GT debut in 2003 aboard a GT Ferrari. After passing Johnny O’Connell for a race win at Road America that year, the Dane was snapped up by Corvette Racing the following season and has been a regular race winner aboard the V8-powered velocity yellow machines for the past nine seasons.
In total, Magnussen has collected 26 ALMS wins, 64 podiums, 11 poles and 14 fastest laps and won the GT1 championship for Corvette in 2008. The Dane also has four wins for Corvette at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Jan Magnussen Q&A
Q: When you came over from Denmark to your first ALMS race in 1999, did you ever think you’d still be here now?
A: “I have to say at the time it wasn’t on my mind that I’d be in the U.S. doing 100 ALMS races. But I did know pretty much straight away that this series was where I wanted to be.
“I didn’t have such a great time in Formula 1 and when that was over I was looking for other things to do. I have to say it did cross my mind once or twice to quit racing altogether because I was really fed up with everything.
“Coming to America for the ALMS races was the new beginning I needed.
“I’m happy to be in the ALMS for 100 races and I hope to make it 200. I’m loving this stage in my life and I feel very lucky to be here and doing what I love.”
Q: What makes the ALMS a great place to race versus other types of racing you’ve done in your career, especially in Europe?
A: “The whole atmosphere of the ALMS is much friendlier and each racer and team member feels like they’re part of something big. We are all trying to win and it seems like more of a team effort in the ALMS versus other types of racing in Europe.
“It’s actually hard to put into words – I just knew that when I came over to race in the U.S. I felt right at home, no matter which team I drove for.”
Q: This is your ninth season with Corvette Racing. How does it feel to be with a team for that long, something pretty rare in motorsports?
A: “Corvette Racing is my home away from home. I am always looking forward to coming to the U.S. and be part of the team.
“I am so proud to be with Corvette Racing for as long as I have been, and I hope that I can stay a lot longer and contribute to even more wins.”
Q: You live in Denmark and fly to the U.S. every time you race. For as many years as you’ve been in the ALMS, how many frequent flyer miles have you racked up?
A: I have no idea, but I think that in terms of miles I’ve probably been to the moon and am well on my way back. Probably much more than that.
Q: With all the time you’ve spent on planes, what do you do when you’re flying?
A: There is usually more than one flight I have to take. Copenhagen airport is good to travel from but there’s only three direct flights to the U.S. – New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. It’s that first flight that’s really long.
Typically I try to read and get away from it all, but I’ve also become quite good at sleeping as well.
Q: What would it mean to you to pick up the first win for the No. 3 Corvette of 2012 at Lime Rock, your 100th ALMS race?
A: “It would be awesome, but I think that two other guys have the same plan that are celebrating their 100th starts as well – Bill Auberlen (in a BMW) and Joerg Bergmeister (in a Porsche).
“I think though that the No. 3 car is due for a win. We’ve been strong at every race so far, just things got in the way. But we’ve got what it takes to get that top podium spot.
“A win at Lime Rock would be a very nice way to forget about a horrible Le Mans.”
Q: How do you feel about your competition in the ALMS GT championship?
A: “It’s fierce.
“I believe that the ALMS GT championship is the most competitive racing championship in the world at this time.
“In the races, there’s only one way to drive, at 100 percent. All the time.
“Strategy and luck play major parts, but with the way these races are going and with the tough battles out there you’ve got to make the most of every lap. If you see an opportunity, you have to go for it. And everyone is driving that hard all the time.
“I’m absolutely loving it.”
Q: Is there a secret to a good lap around Lime Rock?
A: “In some sense, Lime Rock is the same as everywhere else. Good momentum will get you a good lap.
“But, Lime Rock is a narrow, twisty little track and it’s very hard to pass. And when you do make a pass it can be hard to make it clean. You’ve just got to go for every opportunity. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun.
“The track is also punishing because there is quite a severe penalty if you make a mistake and go off track. You either go very far off, or in the last corner, you go into the wall.
“I must say though I did like the original configuration. I did drive one race on that configuration and it was fantastic and fun, but I do understand why the changes were made. You don’t want cars taking off into the air!”
Q: How have you been preparing for the drive this weekend?
A: “I raced a lot last weekend in Denmark and it turned out well.
“The first race was on Saturday, a four-hour long-distance race with a friend of mine. We had a fantastic race and we won it.
“Later that day I qualified a Camaro on the pole for the Danish Touring Car Championship which is now the Camaro Cup. On Sunday I won both races.
“We used to race small sedans in the Danish Championship like Peugeots and little BMWs but now we leave the shopping cars in the parking lot and leave the track to the race cars!”
Q: You’ve got a birthday coming up, correct?
A: “Yes, my birthday is on the fourth of July. I’m actually traveling all that day, and I arrive in the U.S. for the fireworks.
“Of course I’d like to think those fireworks are for me to celebrate my 100th ALMS start, but I know better. I know on Saturday the 7th there will be even more fireworks for the Corvette Racing Team. I cannot wait to get to Lime Rock!”