Richard Lietz (Austria), sharing the #44 Magnus Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with John Potter/Andy Lally/Rene Rast, took over the driving duties with less than two hours left to go at the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona. He then guided his car through two pit stops and to the GT victory for the Salt Lake City-based team owned by Potter and led a sweep of the GT podium by Porsche 911 race cars.
In fact, with Lietz, Henzler and Lieb – all Porsche factory drivers - driving their cars to the checkered flag, Porsche Motorsport North America president Jens Walther is especially proud of the Porsche people, not just the race cars.
'With both our customer race car owners and our factory drivers, we have the best people in the motorsports business associated with Porsche, and they are a key part in making our street cars and race cars great,' said Walther, who has been president of Porsche Motorsport North America, Inc. since 2010.
Winning team owner John Potter could not contain his feelings in the pit box after the checkered flag dropped, as his team was victorious in one of the greatest sports car races in the world after being in existence less than three years.
'This crew works so hard, and we have come so close to the top step of the podium in Grand-Am in the past, but to win for the first time, at this race is something special. Rene and Andy are great guys, and Richard really brought us home strong,' said Potter.
Lietz was pleased that Potter chose him to finish the race, and he thought the field of drivers was especially strong.
'I was honored to carry the team flag to the finish line, and we bested a field of world-class GT drivers,' said Lietz.
For Rene Rast (Germany), the defending Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion, it was his first time at Daytona, but the significance of the victory did not escape him.
'To finish at the top with perhaps the greatest GT field ever is an honor, and I thank Porsche and Magnus Racing for allowing me to be involved,' said Rast.
Andy Lally (USA) won this GT event last year, but switched teams this year to join Magnus Racing.
'This was a great victory for John Potter and Magnus, but it is only the first step in our quest for the Rolex Grand-Am GT championship and North American Endurance GT Championship,' said Lally, who will run with Potter for the entire Grand-Am season in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Finishing the Porsche sweep of the podium is the second-place TRG Porsche of Steve Bertheau/Marc Goosens/Wolf Henzler/Spencer Pumpelly/Jeroen Bleekemolen, and the #59 Brumos Porsche (Leh Keen/Hurley Haywood/Andrew Davis/Marc Lieb) was third. Both teams led for substantial lengths of time during the 24-hour event, but, in the end, both the cars couldn't catch the Magnus Porsche.
'We ran the whole event flat out, and spent hours and hours in the lead, but we had some front-end body damage that hurt our aerodynamics, and an extra pit stop in the end brought us up a little bit short. Still, we are proud of our Brumos drivers and crew, and we won the GT championship last year after finishing fifth, so we will proceed on that mission again,' said Hurley Haywood, five-time Daytona overall winner an current Brumos team manager.
For Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler (Germany), qualifying woes put their TRG Porsche near the back of the field for the start of the race, but they also led for multiple hours before clutch woes slowed them down near the end.
'My Porsche colleague Richard Lietz is very fast, and we could not make up any time on the Magnus car in the end. But we are happy with our second-place finish, and the TRG crew prepared a Porsche which performed great all race,' said Henzler, who won the GT class at Le Mans in 2010.
Alex Job Racing's WeatherTech Porsche was hit by a prototype, ruining its suspension and other parts – causing a long pit stop and a 17th place finish. Similarly, Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche lost its power steering (preceeded accident during the night), which put another pre-race favorite at the 15th finishing position.
20 Race Winning Streak (overall or class): 1966-1987
Finished 1-2 overall in 12 Daytona 24-Hours
Finished 1-2-3, overall and class – 10
GT class winner finishing second overall: 2001, 2004
From 1977 to 1987, Porsche had compiled 11 consecutive overall wins
GTX Series Winner: 1978-1981
GTP Series Winner: 1982-87, 1989, 1991
Transcript of Magnus Daytona media center interview after the race:
January 29, 2012
An Interview With:
ANDY LALLY, RICHARD LIETZ, RENE RAST, JOHN POTTER
HERB BRANHAM (Grand-Am PR): Very pleased to be joined first by the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche team, Andy Lally, John Potter, Richard Lietz, Rene Rast, fourth class victory in the Rolex 24, Andy Lally second in a row, and this is the first Rolex 24 win for Magnus Racing and the first Rolex Series victory for Magnus Racing.
Q. Andy, I remember last week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, we had a brief talk and you told me that you had assembled a new team and you didn't really know what to expect. Did you really expect that you would win in the GT category?
ANDY LALLY: I absolutely knew that we had the potential to do it. The people that were assembled by John to start Magnus Racing just two years ago were top notch guys, and he took direction from some really well seasoned vets, and he steered the ship in the right direction and basically put together a really solid, strong effort. And then it was a pleasure to be able to join with the team at the end of last season, and look forward to this being our first race, and it was just absolutely epic to come home our first time together, John Potter and I and Magnus Racing, to come home on the top step, especially at the 50th.
Q. Andy, you had such a rough year last year, and it had to be pretty demoralizing at times. To get through that and then come here back to your roots and take home the 50th, it's got to feel good. What are your thoughts right now about that whole process?
ANDY LALLY: Well, first we won the 24 hours at Daytona last year, so I had a pretty good year still, no matter what happens after that as long as you're still healthy it's a really good year. But in regard to the NASCAR stuff, it was a tough year, but even knowing how tough it was going to be, it was a shot that I wanted to take. Knowing how tough it was going to be, I'd do it all over again. It was something as tough as it was and as humbling as it was and as much of an underdog as you could be, we were, but it was still a blast. And to come back and drive with talents like these three guys sitting next to me is cool trying to transition back into it and get back in the swing of things right off the bat.
Q. Rene, we rode the plane together to come here. You said it's completely new to me, first time at Daytona. Last year you won the Porsche Super Cup at the Carerra World Cup, you won the Super Cup Race at Monaco. What's still on your list?
RENE RAST: Yeah, like you said, it was quite a good year for me, and actually my first race in this new season. I would like to win Le Mans. That's my next goal.
ANDY LALLY: That would be almost as cool as this.
Q. Andy, talk a little bit about how this sets you up for the rest of the season with the 24 under your belt and how things look going forward from here?
ANDY LALLY: Well, we had two real strong contenders finish second and third, so the points are still going to be tight, but we did have a lot of real solid players that didn't have good finishes here that are way down the list right now, gives us a good points jump. Spence and Steve and Lee and Andrew are going to be real tough all year, and they're right on our heels right away.
But the Rolex Series is super competitive. I think we're seeing the economy get a little better, and I think we're seeing more and more teams come out. We're going to see some huge challenges from the Audis and the Camaros and the Mazdas to take on the Porsche. I think the strongest thing out there right now is the Porsche, especially reliability wise at Daytona, and I think we're going to see power shifts throughout the season depending on what track we go to.
Q. John, can you talk about the challenges of the race, obviously a lot of competition, but you guys were in the lead when I think you had a penalty come through and you rebounded from that. Can you talk me through some of the challenges you had?
JOHN POTTER: Yeah, it was a crazy race because obviously there's so many great competitors here as everyone knows about, but also the equipment is just everyone's equipment is just so good of all types of makes and models because we were talking before how many cars ran every lap and never went to the garage. Seeing that, there was no room for any mistakes.
We had a little penalty, a one minute stop at the end, which in a race this close with such good competition could have meant disaster. We managed to pull out of it with some good strategy afterwards and of course some excellent driving from these three guys. But no, it's just the most challenging race I've ever done is an understatement.
Q. Outside your pits, you have my favorite poster of the event. It reads, 'There's no prize more cherished in the gallery Rolex Wars.' What's it like to win the Rolex Wars?
JOHN POTTER: It's fantastic. I'm just hoping I don't get sued for any sort of copyright infringement on that.
Q. Andy, could you talk about the pass for the lead when you went by Leh Keen there at the finish from your perspective? I think it ended up in a broken splitter for the 59 car.
ANDY LALLY: Oh, did he break the splitter after? I missed that part. The Brumos car was really strong. There was a lot of really, really strong race cars out there, and we were a little bit off sequence. I think I had a little bit fresher tires than he did, so I was able to get a little better run out of the bus stop there. The draft here is so huge that I was able to come up alongside. We were really, really close. I've raced with Leh a lot over the years, and I know he's a super talent, and I trust him, and we've raced within inches before and never had an issue.
I think we can both lean on each other without us wrecking each other, and hopefully the rest of the season continues like that. It was an exciting moment, but it was also something where I didn't think that was going to be the last pass. We had a whole lot more race left in front of us, and when I jumped out, it was still 80 minutes to go. This guy is a rock over here, Richard Lietz hopped in and went super fast times trying to hold off another one of the best Porsche drivers out there in the world there, Wolf and Spence and the rest of the guys on that deal.
Q. What specifically was the one minute penalty for, and what issues, if any, were there with the car throughout the race?
JOHN POTTER: The one minute penalty was for working on the car while fueling. The under body was falling off after 22 hours or so. So the crew ripped it off, and we got a penalty for that. What was the other question?
Q. Were there any issues with the car?
JOHN POTTER: No, the car ran great. It's a testament to the crew, everyone who worked on it, months of preparation. No, I thought the car was actually amazing. I think we could go race it now. That's not an understatement.
Q. This is the deepest, largest GT field we've ever seen, ever in the world probably. Has that even remotely begun to sink in, that you may never win a race quite like this win?
ANDY LALLY: I don't think anybody is going to win a race like this ever again. It was said all month long leading up to this as the entry list grew and grew and grew that we had nine different makes of cars and world champions from all over the world, from Formula 1 to NASCAR to IndyCars to international sports car endurance superheroes, factory Porsche kits like these guys that just fly around like under qualifying speed laps, and it was pretty cool for Magnus Racing. I'm sure the whole entire crew is proud and entitled to a lot of celebration tonight.