ALMS and the Jan

Jan Magnussen is the revelation of the Panoz team in this year's American Le Mans Series. Team leader David Brabham described the Dane as its 'secret weapon' after the last round, at the Nurburgring last weekend.That was the first race that Panoz has won in 2000, and it came at a time when such a victory seemed a near-impossibility.

ALMS and the Jan

A blinding start, with Magnussen at the wheel, put the Panoz into the lead, from where the Audis that had swept the board at Le Mans could do nothing about it. Against the might of the last two Le Mans winners - BMW and Audi, racing in their own backyard - Brabham and Magnussen took the front-engined roadster to a superb victory.

Magnussen's career has suffered more than its fair share of false-starts in recent seasons, but his superb performance at the 'Ring last weekend brought the name of the driver once hailed by Jackie Stewart as the next Ayrton Senna back into prominence. Suddenly, it seems the man once groomed for stardom in Formula 1 and head-hunted by Penske in Champ Cars could become hot property once more.

Magnussen still regards himself as a single-seater specialist, despite his recent sportscar exploits. He is the driver who beat Senna's single-season wins record in British Formula 3 in 1994, but since those days he has rarely been in a position to put in the kind of drive he did at the Nurburgring on Sunday. A former Class 1 touring car driver in the ITC and old-style DTM, he has competed sporadically in Champ Cars since his Formula 1 chance came to an end, but despite the career-boost afforded by sportscars, he still regards Champ Cars as unfinished business.

Matt Willis spoke to the Panoz driver about the ALMS, CART and the reincarnated DTM.

"No, I think we had the upper hand. The first hour of the race was in the dry, and we managed to pull out a good 10 seconds. It got better when it started to rain, though... Then we were really fast, but in the dry we could have done it as well."

"Yes, it was. I was very surprised. I had a good start, but I didn't believe that it could last. I managed to pull out a good lead, but that was a surprise. But I knew as soon as it started to get into slippery conditions that we'd have a better chance. Especially with the Audi - it doesn't look like the turbo engine is very driveable when it's slippery."

"At the time I was catching him at three seconds a lap, and I believe I could have caught him with a couple of laps to go. Whether I could have passed him I don't know. But I believe we had the upper hand all race - him spinning just made it a bit easier."

"Yes. Very much. Get out of this weather!"

"Well, when we raced at Charlotte, we did really well. It wasn't against the new Audis, but we were really strong there. We managed to screw it up ourselves through our pit stop strategy. But we'll see when we go out there if we have a car that's well proven. I believe once we get out there that what we have will be strong enough against the Audis. We'll see."

"My aim is still to get back into Champ Cars. But I think this is a good place to show what I can do."

"Well, we tried. We didn't really have the luck we needed just to get at least one good result. We were up there sometimes, but... I'm disappointed that I'm not in Champ Cars right now, but this is working out and I'm really happy where I am now with Panoz. I believe this is a good championship, and hopefully I can show what I can do, and move on from there. Maybe one day if Don wants to do something else he'll think of me."

"That was really good. I mean, he was not as fast as David [Brabham] or me, but he had so much experience. To work with him, and listen to him and his views of how the race was probably going to be - with all of that experience it was really useful in a long race like Le Mans."

"I haven't seen the cars run yet. I've seen pictures of them, and I know it's good racing, but I don't think they can be quite as spectacular as they used to be. I haven't been to a race yet, but I want to go to one this year and see what they're like. The old cars were great with the sound they made, but I can't really talk about the series - although I hear they don't sound as good now."

"It's possible. But right now I'm really happy to be in the 'States, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm never coming home!"

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