LE MANS, France (Tuesday, June 11) – Danish Corvette Racing ace Jan Magnussen is set for his 20th assault on the world’s toughest endurance race this week – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Magnussen made his debut at Le Mans with Panoz Motorsport in 1999 finishing 11th overall and ninth in the LMP1 class.
He drove an Audi in 2003 when he finished fourth overall with Marco Werner and Seiji Ara.
In 2004 Magnussen first drove for Corvette Racing at Le Mans and this year will be his 15th assault on the famous French race behind the wheel of a velocity yellow Corvette.
The Danish racer began his Corvette career in the best possible way, with victory alongside Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta.
That amazing success continued in both 2005 and 2006 with two more victories – again with Gavin and Beretta.
In fact, in his first six years at Le Mans with Corvette, Magnussen either finished first or second in class – scoring a fourth win in 2009.
In the past eight years, Magnussen’s results for Corvette have included a second, third, fourth and fifth in the hotly-contested GTE-Pro class.
Last year, he came close to scoring his fifth win at Le Mans, with the No. 63 Corvette C7.R holding the lead until the dying minutes of the race.
A late-race puncture pushed them back to third place, but Magnussen returns to France in 2018 targeting a return to the top step of the podium.
The trio has worked together previously at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Petit Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring – winning the Sebring race for Corvette last year.
Practice and qualifying kicks off this Wednesday at Le Mans with cars on track from 4:00 pm.
Final qualifying is scheduled for Thursday night with the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans scheduled to go green at 3:00 pm local time Saturday.
Jan Magnussen Q&A
Q: When you first arrived at Le Mans in 1999 did you have any idea you’d still be coming back here 20 years later?
A: “I had my last races in Formula 1 in 1998 and coming to Le Mans for the first time in 1999 was a huge eye-opener. I had raced at Sebring and Road Atlanta prior to Le Mans, but this was a huge step up.
“The competition, the manufacturers, the fans – it was a real eye-opener for sure. Nothing, even in Formula 1, can really prepare you for an event like this.
“The traffic, racing through the night, managing your sleep, hydration and eating – it is a huge challenge.
“Also, working with other drivers in the same car was also a dramatic change as well.
“I was lucky to be in the same car with Johnny O’Connell for my Le Mans debut, and we went on to be great teammates for years at Corvette Racing.”
Q: What were your expectations when you first drove for Corvette Racing at Le Mans?
A: “I had done a few GT races in the ALMS the year before but coming to Le Mans with Corvette in 2004 and winning was a dream come true.
“You never forget that sight of the crowd in the pit lane when you are up on the podium – it is just incredible.
“The fact I was able to get my first three Le Mans wins with Corvette in the first three years in the programme is pretty remarkable.”
Q: What are your favourite parts of the Le Mans circuit?
A: “Safety is always paramount, but I do love circuits that have consequences when you make a mistake.
“There are still plenty of parts of the circuit which are tremendously rewarding when you get them right, and you’re pushing at 10/10ths.
“Le Mans used to be an endurance race where you had to take care of your equipment, but now you have to really push at 100% all the way.
“Particularly in the GTE-Pro class. It is so competitive now with Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Ford and now BMW is racing for the first time.
“It doesn’t get any tougher, but we are looking forward to the battle.”
Q: What were your impressions after the Le Mans test day?
A: “This will be the fifth year at Le Mans for the Corvette C7.R so we’ve pushed all the major development we can under the current regulations.
“It is now about fine-tuning the car and getting it right for the track conditions we face on any given day.
“The fortunate thing for myself, Antonio and Rocky – plus Oliver (Gavin), Tommy (Milner) and Marcel (Fassler) is we have the best team in the pit lane backing us up.
“The attention to detail from the Corvette Racing guys is just exceptional. It’s everything – preparation, strategy, pit stops – we know what it takes to win this race, but we never rest on our laurels.
“The team is always working hard to find those little extra improvements.”
Q: What will it be like having Mike Rockenfeller with you at Le Mans this year?
A: “That is a great bonus. He always does a super job every time he turns up to race for us. He is fast, super professional and a great guy.
“He also has a lot of experience here at Le Mans-winning in the GT2 class in 2005 and winning overall in 2010.
“He has missed the race in the past few years and is now very excited to be back – we’re just as excited to have him back in our car as well.”
Q: Does Le Mans feel like home with so many Danish fans coming to the race every year?
A: “It really is remarkable. I was amazed at the number of Danish fans at the race when I first came here in 1999. Big John Nielsen and Tom (Kristensen) obviously paved the way, but the interest in the race back home has really grown since then.
“This year there are five Danish drivers in the race – all of us driving GTE machinery.
“The fans in the campsites and at the parade just have a great time, and it is always a highlight of the week to go and visit them before the race.”