After missing out on a chance at earning a debut IMSA win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Kevin Magnussen has his sights set on correcting the problem on Saturday during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Granted, there’s no guarantee he will end up in victory lane with the No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing DPi-V.R, but it’s clear the former Formula 1 ace is treating each WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event like wins are the only acceptable outcome.
It would have been silly for Magnussen to expect such things during the last five years of his F1 career; based on his level of frustration after Daytona, those expectations have been heavily revised for the Dane who shares the car with Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande.
“I really wanted that victory for myself and for the team as well,” he told RACER. “They had done such a good job getting everything together in such a short time. It was pretty impressive for them to be able to put the car on the track in Daytona in such good shape with such short notice, and it was devastating to lose the chance of victory.
“We weren’t leading, but with Renger driving, we were catching the lead car very quickly. Surely, he would have had a very good chance of overtaking the lead car for the win. It was devastating to lose it like that with a puncture right at the end after 24 hours. It’s pretty tough to swallow, but it’s great we have another big race straight after.”
With a few tests and one long race in the No. 01 Cadillac DPi to draw from, Magnussen heads into the opening practice session at Sebring feeling like he’s fully integrated into CGR and the IMSA paddock.
“I had to learn about a completely new car, completely new team, new teammates, new tracks, new discipline with endurance racing; I’d never done that before,” he said. “It was a lot of things to take in and a lot of things to get used to, and it’s not like I had a lot of time to do that. But it went very smooth.
“I went into it with an open mind, ready to learn, and luckily, the team, although they’re new to DPi, they’re not new in endurance racing, so going into all these new things for me, and to do it with Ganassi is great. Also, doing it with Renger and Scott — who are legends and easy to work with and very welcoming — is great. They were keen to share their experiences and help me out with advice wherever I need it. That’s been really positive. I’ve enjoyed it. I continue to learn, and now there’s another big race at Sebring that’s going to be wild.”
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Magnussen’s father Jan amassed multiple Sebring victories during his time in North America, and despite bringing his son to a variety of racetracks over the years in the ALMS and IMSA, Kevin is a true newcomer to the legendary circuit.
“Sebring is one of the races I’ve never been to,” he added. “I’ve never seen much of my dad race here or anything. That’s going to be completely new to me. It’s definitely one of the big races. Out of Monaco F1, Indy 500, Daytona 24, Le Mans; Sebring is definitely amongst those. It is one of those I’d really love to win.
“So I’m going to go just take it in and enjoy it. I know it’s going to be awesome. I’ve tested at Sebring a few times this year already, and a lot of people tell me it’s going to be pretty crazy in the last few hours of the race. It’s pretty old school in many ways. That fits my style.”
Magnussen recently signed on as part of Peugeot’s new-for-2022 FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar program. Asked if the Peugeot factory deal would prevent racing elsewhere between WEC rounds, Magnussen wants to keep the door open to North America after the IMSA season is over.
“I certainly want to come back,” he said. “Daytona is one that I really want to have another go at, just one more go at. Certainly, I’m going to come back. Whether I can do it next year, that’s maybe a question mark. It might be possible, it might not. I’m going to try to see if I can make it work. Let’s see. It would be awesome and I definitely want to come back.”
Following Magnussen’s signing with CGR for a career reboot in the U.S, his former Haas F1 teammate Romain Grosjean chose the western same route, albeit in the NTT IndyCar Series, to write a new chapter of his own. Having discovered much of the competitiveness and joy in IMSA that were missing in F1, Magnussen hopes the Frenchman finds similar revelations in the American open-wheel championship.
“And I think he already has,” Magnussen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he is going to enjoy IndyCar a lot. Not that I’ve ever done IndyCar, but coming out of Formula 1, it’s feeling like you can win again. That’s what it’s really all about for these drivers, at least the good ones. We want to win.
“Romain is a great driver that is definitely going to be very competitive in IndyCar and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win races already this year. In F1, it’s sometimes going to be difficult to enjoy it, if you know you don’t have a chance of winning. I think it’s a relief for him to come out and start dreaming about races again. It certainly has been for me.”