The Centurions: Jan Magnussen
The Centurions: Jan Magnussen
Four American Le Mans Series drivers are set to celebrate their 100th series race this weekend at Lime Rock Park – GT rivals Jan Magnussen, Joerg Bergmeister and Bill Auberlen plus prototype veteran, Butch Leitzinger.
Magnussen competed in the very first ALMS event at Sebring in 1999 aboard the Panoz GTR-1. Fresh from a two-year stint in Formula 1 with Stewart Racing, the Danish ace soon proved he was force to be reckoned with – taking his first victory at Mosport 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.
The Danish star will have some added incentive for success this week – Wednesday’s 4th of July fireworks were not just for the famous American holiday, it was 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.
“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,” Magnussen said.
“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.”
“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.”
Former Panoz teammate David Brabham looks back fondly on the days when the Danish/Australian duo took on the might of the Audi factory team.
“I remember the first time he drove the Panoz, he blitzed the lap record at whatever track we were. We were like, “Holy cow, who is this kid?” Then I went and tested after that and matched his time or went a tenth quicker – I can’t remember,” Brabham said.
“From that point on, there was this raised competition because he was a super strong teammate and he was very good for me. He was super-quick and I had to raise my game. We bounced off each other so well and had a fantastic time at Panoz. We conquered Audi on several occasions together which was no mean feat. We probably couldn’t have done it unless I had someone like Jan next to me. He was a brilliant asset to have on the team.”
Magnussen and Corvette Racing teammate Antonio Garcia will be out to challenge for their first victory of the season this weekend. Magnussen is the only driver in the history of the series to win a race in every season the championship has existed.