Racers in GTS3 in NASA’s Northeast region will probably send farewell balloons to Eric Magnussen as he moves into a new class this season. The sentiment is understandable because Magnussen won all the races he entered over the past two seasons. Now Magnussen is taking his 16-race winning streak to ST2 after sitting atop the GTS3 podium in 2019 and 2020. Participation in the Northeast GTS3 class had been waning, in part, because of Magnussen’s dominance.
“I think I might have something to do with that. Nobody likes getting smoked every race,” Magnussen said. “In ST2, a lot of the racers push just as hard as I do, so I think the competition is going to be a lot better and more consistent. I think we’re going to be a really good match for each other.”
Magnussen joined NASA a few years ago after picking up some speeding tickets on the winding roads of the Pocono Mountains. Several friends suggested Magnussen join NASA, and he started doing Time Trial with the NASA Northeast region.
“After a year or two, (NASA officials) said, ‘You should probably go to comp school cause you’re pushing this thing really hard,’” Magnussen said.
Magnussen, a Porsche mechanic who recently opened the race shop Main Line Motorsport, bought his dream racecar, a BMW E46 M3 that he will continue to race in ST2.
Magnussen’s dominance in GTS3 was even more impressive because of his limited racing budget. To conserve tires, Magnussen limits testing at tracks he knows such as New Jersey Motorsports Park, opting for what he calls “supersized Time Trial.” Magnussen relies heavily on NASA’s contingency program to defray racing costs, so it’s one of the reasons he pushes himself to finish first in qualifying and races.
Ultimately, the 31-year-old credits his racing success to showing up at the track with a fully prepared car.
“There’s been many times where I’ve been in the shop or in my garage until 1, 2 in the morning and pulling into the track at 3 in the morning, and sleep for a couple hours,” he said. “But when I wake up, I know everything’s good to go. I really don’t like not being prepared, and I’ve never really put myself in that position.”
Now that Magnussen is changing classes, he’s prepared to share his secrets for success. One of those benefactors is Sam Hole, who completed his first full season in GTS2 last year, turning to Main Line Motorsport to make him a better racer.
“(My old shop) was super focused on BMW club racing and didn’t really seem all that interested in helping me develop my car, whereas with Eric, he was, ‘All right, let’s do this, this and this and we can work your way up with the car as you grow as a driver,’” Hole said. “He was really interested in helping me develop my car and my driving skills at the same time to be the best GTS2 competitor possible.”
Hole describes Magnussen as intense at the track because he is focused on racing and winning, but willing to help a fellow competitor, “because he’s such a great mechanic that he’ll drop everything and help a competitor fix their car,” Hole said.
Magnussen acknowledges he’s had to dial back the intensity after an incident at the 2019 NASA Championships at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“I had a little bit of contact and it was totally my fault just being way too aggressive on the first lap. I actually tried passing a GTS4 car, and we had some contact there and I felt really bad,” Magnussen said. “Since then, I’ve really been focusing on not only just following the rules, but also knowing every other driver, what they’re going to do, the likelihood that they see me or not. That’s a level of maturity that really takes race seat time to develop.”
Outside the track, Magnussen is continually trying to squeeze more from his BMW, using what he learned from the previous race to improve the car’s speed and reliability. Magnussen eventually hopes to upgrade the racecar’s data system (he has an old AiM Solo), but financially it’s not in the budget.
Instead, he’ll watch videos of his races and compare it to the limited data from the AiM Solo.
“My driving has always been really consistent and that just gets better and better with time, but what I’m really good at is focusing on chassis tuning,” he said. “A lot more of my data is around tire temperatures and I can compare that with the AiM Solo data for corner by corner to see what adjustment helps, where it hurts and where that happy medium is.”
Magnussen knows the competition will be tougher in ST2 and keeping his 16-race winning streak will take some luck to continue. Magnussen’s stepfather, Filipe Sardinha, handles pit lane duties, including the radio and tire pressures. Sardinha, a recently retired auto mechanic, got his stepson into motorsports.
“He’s not so burnt out working on cars anymore,” Magnussen said. “Growing up that might be one of the reasons why I never raced anything. He didn’t want to do this stuff on the weekends.”
Magnussen is supporting three GTS3 cars out of his shop in Exton, Pa., which will add to the stress level getting ready for a race weekend. His stepfather will be there to assist if any mechanical issues pop up.
Hole, who’s car is being supported by Main Line Motorsport, is confident that Magnussen can handle the workload and be among the top competitors in ST2.
“His car, my car, all the cars he supports, it’s like zero drama every single time,” Holes said. “The preparation of the car really allows me to focus on what I need to do behind the wheel and not have any second guesses or doubts in my mind that the car is going to do its job.”
While Magnussen may be the new face in ST2, he won’t be a pushover on the track.
“Even in GTS3, it took me about a year, year and a half to get up to speed. That was a steeper learning curve. I was learning setup and still developing very quickly as a driver,” he said. “This year I’m going to be focusing on getting the car to be reliable. I definitely don’t expect it to be nearly as reliable as it was in the last year or two. Hopefully by the end of the season or before nationals, I can really dial it in.”
|Racing Class:||Previously GTS3 -> ST2 / ST3 / TTU / TT2 / TT3|
|Sponsors:||Main Line Motorsport, Wilwood Disc Brakes|
|Day Job:||Gold Meister Technician at Main Line Motorsport|
|Favorite Food:||Taco Tuesday|
|Favorite TV show:||“The Grand Tour”|
|Favorite Movie:||“The Departed”|
|Favorite Book:||“Race Car Vehicle Dynamics”|
|Favorite Track:||Watkins Glen|
|Dream Racecar:||Porsche 992 RSR|