The WeatherTech Championship Newcomer Enjoys Bumpy Belle Isle
By Jeff Olson
DETROIT, Mich. – Kevin Magnussen’s first few laps around Detroit’s difficult street course couldn’t have gone better.
Magnussen, who moved from Formula 1 to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship during the offseason, won the Motul Pole Award on Friday for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in his first encounter with the Belle Isle Park circuit.
Magnussen was clocked at 1 minute 20.031 seconds in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. That was 0.021 seconds faster than Harry Tincknell’s best lap in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi RT24-P.
On a circuit notoriously difficult even for accomplished racers, Magnussen’s first qualifying attempt around the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street circuit was trouble-free. In fact, he was fast from the very start.
“Turn 1 and 2 is a great part of the track and one that I was looking forward to coming through,” Magnussen said. “That’s been a very strong part of my laps so far this weekend. It’s a very tricky track to drive because it’s so bumpy in places. If you change your line a little bit, you hit the bumps differently.”
When he parted with the Haas F1 Team at the end of the 2020 season, Magnussen, a 28-year-old veteran of seven seasons in F1, joined Chip Ganassi’s IMSA program. The results haven’t been what he expected so far, but his enthusiasm is evident.
“I just missed going racing with the aim of winning,” Magnussen said. “This year, the feeling I have going to races reminds me a little bit of how it was before Formula 1. I kind of miss that feeling.”
Magnussen will start first Saturday for the 100-minute race, the fourth of the 2021 season for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class in the car he shares with Renger van der Zande. Magnussen and van der Zande are tied for sixth in the drivers’ standings, 236 points behind the leaders, Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05.
Pipo Derani was third best in qualifying in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R behind Magnussen and Tincknell. Tristan Vautier was challenging the leaders during Friday’s 15-minute session before his No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R slid into the tire barrier in Turn 4 with five minutes remaining.
Taylor had the fourth-fastest lap, followed by Vautier and Olivier Pla.
NBCSN and IMSA Radio live coverage of Saturday’s race begins at 5 p.m. ET.