GRAND-AM's Gaffe Costs Potter and Stanton Chance at Victory in Season Finale
September 18, 2011 (Salt Lake City, Utah) - Starting from eighth place for the EMCO Gears Classic, the finale for the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, Magnus Racing's John Potter and Craig Stanton were eagerly looking forward to Saturday's two hour and forty five minute contest. Their no. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup had been fast in each on-track session, with Potter putting in a strong qualifying session in a large GT field.
At the end of a wild and caution-filled race, the Magnus Racing Porsche crossed the finish line in seventh place. The day, however, was tarnished by a break with GRAND-AM's yellow flag procedure which dropped the team from second place to ninth.
Potter enjoyed a clean start to the race, picking up one position before turning the car over to Stanton at the forty-five minute mark. Stanton was instantly thrust into a multicar battle with seemingly half of the GT class field involved, but battled forward up to third place throughout multiple caution periods. During the second to last caution, Stanton and the leading no. 42 Mazda stayed out under yellow to take advantage of GRAND-AM's standard wave-by to gain track position. However, GRAND-AM chose not to wave the Magnus Racing Porsche or the no. 42 Mazda by, and ordered the Daytona Prototype field past both cars.
When the race returned to green, Stanton had no choice but to pit under green flag conditions, dropping to ninth place. He would pick up two more positions and survive a frantic three-lap dash to the finish caused by a late-race caution period to finish in seventh place.
Following the race, GRAND-AM officials apologized to the team for the mistake in their procedure. The result, however, was an unsatisfying one for Potter and Stanton after their Porsche had been in a position to win in the final hour of the race.
"It's extremely frustrating and disappointing to have a locked second place and a shot at the win taken away from us," said Potter. "Our crew had been beating everyone else in the pits all day and had the Grand-Am officials followed their rules and used the same procedure they used all season, we would have gotten waved around and pitted with the 42 ahead of the rest of the GT field. Instead, we had to pit under green and lost any chance to win the race or even have a strong result. Several other team managers - ones who benefitted from us losing the time - reaffirmed the mistake to GRAND-AM officials. They did later apologize to us, which I appreciate. Obviously, the result won't change but we can come away from this knowing that we drove well enough to win and we had the strategy to win."
Stanton, who twice this season brought the Magnus Racing Porsche to the checkered flag in third place in GRAND-AM GT competition, was equally unhappy with the decision and the outcome of the race.
"The GT class in GRAND-AM is so competitive that you don't always find yourself in a position to win," said Stanton. "Today we had a great chance and then all of a sudden we have a different set of rules under yellow which completely took us out of it. I didn't understand it and I still don't. Our Porsche was awesome today and it would have been amazing to get a win for John and all the guys."
Potter and Stanton closed out the season in sixth place in the driver's championship, a marked improvement of five positions from their debut 2010 season. Magnus Racing also finished sixth in the GT Team Championship.
While there remains some uncertainly about the team's participation in Petit Le Mans, in which the team finished third last season, Magnus Racing has begin preparations for their 2012 racing season. Announcements about the future of the program, which will return for a third season of competition in North America, will be coming in the off-season.