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LE MANS, France (June 14, 2013) – The 90th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hours is quickly approaching with practice and qualifying starting Wednesday. Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen shares his thoughts on his 10th start for the team ahead of the prestigious June 22-23 event.
Question: The last time you and Antonio (Garcia) raced, the No. 3 Compuware Corvette ran a perfect race to win at Laguna Seca in the ALMS. Can that carry over to Le Mans?
Jan Magnussen: The most important part of winning at Laguna Seca for us was to make it clear what we needed to do to win. Last year we were so close in the ALMS to winning races with five second-place finishes, and little things got in the way and messed it up completely. What the Laguna win showed is that when we work together and execute perfectly, we can win races. It also was a mental thing for the crew to show that we can do it, especially right before Le Mans. There is a lot of self-confidence on our crew and belief that we can do it. You need to be fast at Le Mans but also perfect. Hopefully we can learn from Laguna. If we aren’t the fastest car on track, we will need to stick to our plan and try to be faultless, which is really, really hard over 24 hours – not to mention four.”
Q: Corvette Racing poses a formidable two-car lineup. Is that a huge advantage at Le Mans?
JM: We measure ourselves against the (No. 74) car. They are strong competitors for everyone. Our advantage is that we work together with them, and the two cars work off each other to get faster as a team. At Le Mans that’s much more important – both cars need to be quick. It’s definitely much more of a team effort than in the ALMS. We do push each other a lot. We have to be perfect, just like they do.”
Q: Can you take us back to the 2004 race at Le Mans – your first win with Corvette Racing?
JM: At midnight we were leading by a couple minutes when I got taken out by one of the Audis at the Ford Chicane. I limped back to the pits, and the car was heavily damaged. The guys fixed it but we went six laps down. For the next eight hours, we were fighting back and gaining a little on the leaders but six laps was too much. Then with three or four hours left, the leading Prodrive car came in with huge problems and lost the same amount of time in the pits we did. I was getting back in the car at this time, and we came out of the pits together but we were 20 minutes ahead. So the race was back on in a big, big way. It was such a fantastic feeling getting the last briefing by Gary Pratt. Everyone was screaming on the radio when we pulled back out saying, ‘We gotta go! We gotta go!’ Then getting the win was perfect.
Q: The contingent of Danish fans at Le Mans is one of the largest at the race each year. How fun is that to see?
JM: To be at Le Mans as a Danish driver is one of the most fantastic things that a Dane can experience. You have to understand that there are more Danish fans at Le Mans than at the biggest Danish race. We don’t have very big race tracks in Denmark. There are years where we have had upwards of 40,000 Danish people at Le Mans. It’s quite a drive! They go there, make a vacation and party out of it. There is no doubt their favorites are on track. You really feel that every place you go.”
Q: You are quite fond of Le Mans today, but that wasn’t always the case was it?
JM: “My first Le Mans I have to say was a horrible experience. Our car (a Panoz prototype in 1999) was unreliable. We weren’t that fast. It was the first real long-distance race I had completed in. I have to say after 10 hours, it did not make sense to me. I wondered why we were here. But then I got the chance to drive the car across the line at the end of the race and see all the mechanics and the happiness there. For most people, it is more than a race where you go to win; for most you go there to finish the race and it’s a huge accomplishment to be there at the end of 24 hours. That experience driving the car across the line gave me real respect for Le Mans, and that is when I understood what it was about.”
The next time Corvette Racing takes to the circuit at Le Mans is 4 p.m. CET/10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 19 for free practice and qualifying. Corvette Racing will go for its eighth class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 at 3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 22 with coverage on SPEED.
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