Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande triumphed for Chip Ganassi Racing in IMSA competition Saturday afternoon. (Al Steinberg Photo)
DETROIT, Mich. – Chip Ganassi likes winners. He celebrated with a few more Saturday.
Ganassi’s teams completed a daily sweep when Renger van der Zande held on to the lead given to him by Kevin Magnussen to win the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
The victory was the second of the day at Belle Isle Park for Ganassi, who won the IndyCar Series race earlier in the day with Marcus Ericsson. The victories were the first since 2013 for both Magnussen and Ericsson, former Formula One drivers.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that this (IMSA) team was put together at the last minute in the fall of last year,” Ganassi said. “After what we’d all been through in 2020, we really didn’t know where we were at going forward. It’s really special to have an availability of talent … that want to come drive for you.”
Van der Zande was leading a fierce duel with Felipe Nasr as the yellow flag waved when the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW stopped on track. When the 100-minute race resumed with 2 minutes 50 seconds left, van der Zande accelerated away from Nasr, getting enough of a gap to win the race by 0.573 seconds.
“It was good for us,” van der Zande said. “The track got really slippery in those last two, three laps. I had some really big moments, and I think the guy behind me, Nasr, also had some big moments.
“I could pull a bit of a gap. Every time you hit traffic, it’s a risk. I knew that those last two, three laps, I wouldn’t have any traffic. That’s why I think it was better for us to have that last restart.”
The victory was the first in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Magnussen, who joined the series in the offseason after seven seasons in F1. It also let Magnussen join his dad, veteran racer Jan Magnussen, as an IMSA race winner.
“It feels great,” said Magnussen, who also won his first Motul Pole Award on Friday. “This weekend has been extremely good on the team side. We’ve just been fast. I’d say the whole season we’ve been fast. We just haven’t been able to get to the end in the lead. We’ve led a lot of laps this year. Finally, we led the right lap.”
Ganassi, whose operation has won more than 230 races over 31 years in NASCAR, IndyCar and sports car racing – with Saturday’s victory becoming the team’s 60th in IMSA competition – has a knack for finding talent both in and out of the car.
“I think we bring a little to the party as a team, and they bring some things as a driver,” Ganassi said. “I think it’s that combination. There are a lot of guys who are fast, and they don’t get opportunities sometimes. You’ve got to find guys at the right time in their career that need an opportunity to excel and bloom, if you will, and to expose their talents.”
It was the first win of 2021 for Ganassi’s No. 01 car, which led the late laps of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona before a punctured tire sent van der Zande to the pits.
This time, though, the No. 01 and its two pilots were nearly flawless from start to finish.
“We got it together,” van der Zande said. “I’m just super proud of the whole team, how they managed it. I think we can only get better from here. We’ve been a little bit unlucky and made some small mistakes as well, but here we are. This is our first win, and we can build from here.”
Magnussen kept the car in the lead from the start ahead of Nasr’s teammate, Pipo Derani, and handed the lead to van der Zande with 47 minutes remaining. For Magnussen, whose last win came eight years ago in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, the celebration was magical.
“It’s really a dream,” he said. “I feel very fortunate and privileged and blessed to be able to do that. To come out of a weekend like this with a big trophy, it’s pretty special. I’m very thankful to Chip for making this possible and giving me this opportunity.”
Following the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Nasr and Derani to the finish was the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 shared by Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.
Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis came home fourth in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi RT24-P.
The No. 10 team continues to lead the WeatherTech Championship DPi standings, holding a 71-point advantage – 1,398 to 1,327 – over the No. 55 squad.