If ever a racing driver could lay claim to being a contemporary aficionado of the European car, it would be european car's new columnist, Marco Seefried. Boasting both street and track creds, including a deep understanding of the mechanical elements required to make it as a professional driver, Marco not only helps out at Weissach-Flacht when Porsche rolls out a new car for evaluation, he's also a top hired gun: When that Euro team needed someone aboard its Ferrari who could define mechanical sympathy, guess who got the call. And when a Bentley GT topped the podium in the Blancplain Series, our man was there.
Then there was last season, when Marco joined up with Patrick Long to pull Patrick Dempsey onto the podium at Le Mans, and when he delivered a stirring performance in the wet to give Dempsey and team a win at the Fuji round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Besides innate ability, what gives Marco an edge is his acuity in the use and abuse of tires, a skill that comes from miles of seat time, not from a book. But enough—here's Marco.
I was born in Bavaria, Germany, and believe it or not I am not addicted to beer. I started with karting at age 14—actually quite late compared to those who can barely walk and hope for an FIA super license. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be involved in motorsport. Even when I had some really tough and difficult seasons, where I had to work as a mechanic instead of a driver, I never gave up on that dream. Today I can say that the time I put in as a race mechanic helped me immensely as a driver. I turned pro in 2010, and even with so much uncertainty I am able to make my living from it. I have also continued to coach upcoming and amateur drivers.
It appears I will have a packed schedule again. So far I have the North American Endurance Cup with Magnus Racing. In Europe, I have a drive in the Blancpain Endurance Series. The rest, as well as Le Mans and the Nürburgring 24, are still under negotiations. (More news on those in my next column!)
The lead up to the Daytona 24 began with one of the best projects I've ever been involved with. Magnus Racing does its own promotions, and they are among the most memorable. This time Sean Hickman outdid previous efforts by producing a video with all the characters at Daytona presented as Lego figures. He even had guest stars like Wayne Taylor and Katherine Legge doing their own voiceovers. Sean gave all the drivers the same script and then chose the best lines suited for each scene. He also asked about our haircuts for the race, and we didn't get any more out of him after that until just before the race. The response was really great. The fans loved it, but I think it is getting more difficult for Sean, because people expect Magnus to always improve and top the previous promotion. To beat the Lego video will be a tough mission.
We had the best start to the season we could imagine. Winning the 24 Hours of Daytona is a Big One! I think I can say that our Audi R8 was not meant to win. I felt there were probably 10 teams that were more likely to win the class. The Lamborghinis were really strong—too strong. They will get a penalty out of it, I am sure about that. I drove the previous model of the R8 on the Nordschleife two years ago. The new R8 is clearly an improvement but in some terms very sensitive to drive. The steering is very light, so to feel exactly the response of the car is not easy, and it took me a while to know how to drive it best.
Having René Rast on the Magnus team was a big help; he knows the Audi inside and out. His openness exchanging some impressions was very helpful to me. One must be disciplined and focused for it all to work. After the latest BoP (Balance of Performance) changes, we struggled with top speed, and Daytona is just about top speed. But we made it. I think we had the shortest overall pit time in the GTD class, which shows clearly the quality of the crew. The car ran perfectly without any problems, and the drivers did the rest. I was spared the usual Daytona drama this time, and I did not see any opossums to avoid. The only annoying bit was getting close to the quick lap times that René was turning. Haha!
Getting the win means finally I am able to be punctual for meetings with having that Rolex Daytona watch. This is actually the reason why we all go every year again to Daytona: The watch means a great deal, and every time I look at it to check the time, I am reminded of the effort required to win it. Having Patrick Long and the Black Swan GT3R Porsche finish a few seconds behind the Magnus Audi R8 was a strange feeling after being teammates last year in the WEC with Patrick Dempsey. For the first event of the current season, being on the podium with your former teammate in a different driver suit was an adjustment. This time I was one step further up. Patrick is a great guy and I like him a lot. He helped me all along the 2015 season, and I am grateful. It would be great to race together again in the future. For now, I am looking forward to Sebring, because to me it suits the Audi better than Daytona. So let's rock that one!