Jan Magnussen growing into new role with MDK Motorsports

Ask Jan Magnussen about his responsibilities in his role at MDK Motorsports and be prepared for a lengthy answer, almost as long as the team’s entry list across the spectrum of sports car series where MDK competes.

What began a decade ago as an endeavor to become a gentleman racer in his 50s for team CEO Mark Kvamme has blossomed into a mega team fielding cars in four series — three sanctioned by IMSA. MDK has a pair of cars this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (one each in the LMP2 and GTD classes), six cars entered this week in Porsche Carrera Cup North America racing on the undercard of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix and three entries in the Mustang Challenge that hosts its maiden weekend as part of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Four Hours of Mid-Ohio event.

Toss in the team’s involvement in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America sanctioned by USAC, and it’s no wonder MDK is bursting at the seams and Kvamme sought the help of his friend and sometimes co-driver Magnussen.


“Mark called me about joining the team and there were different roles I could take,” the two-time IMSA champion and 47-time race winner says. “Obviously in Carrera Cup and Sprint Challenge with 11 cars, the manager there has a big job to do. But they’re also now joining the Mustang Challenge, so that’s even more stuff to do. I did tell Mark that obviously I was interested in doing a team manager type role but I’m interested in performance. Only performance.

“So that was my agenda. I said, ‘Look, I want to help, I want to be part of it but I do want to keep my focus on performance all around.’”

The key words there are “performance” and “all around,” for Magnussen is focused on all the little (and not so little) things that go into winning races, including but by no means restricted to lap times.

“The main thing I’ve done is help on the driver coaching side; looking through data,” he says. “I advise the best I can, helping all the drivers but focusing a little bit more on a few of them, because most of the guys have their own driver coaches. They all know what they’re doing but they are at different levels, so it’s specific to each driver where I can help. Basically, I’m just keeping my eyes open, looking at how they’re working, how they’re doing, what they are struggling with and then I try and come up with fixes.”

MDK Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD, driven here by Kerong Li and Anders Fjordbach at Long Beach in April, is just part of the team’s expanding motorsports portfolio that Magnussen is working to assist from outside the cockpit. Perry Nelson/Motorsport Images

Magnussen’s eyes are not focused solely on MDK’s burgeoning roster of race drivers, but on just about anyone and everyone wearing the team’s colors.

“I help where I can,” he says. “I’m keeping an eye on everybody and see how they perform on track, how they analyze data, how they work with the crew (and) if I see something that’s easy to fix. But even the stuff that is working I can try to improve that. And the same with the crew guys. If I see them doing something that can be improved, I’ll try and point it out and see if we can find a better way of doing things.

“Because MDK are growing so fast and have got so many cars, I think having a guy like me who can concentrate on the details and concentrate on growing the business is a positive. So, my role is a little bit of everything; a little bit everywhere trying to improve performance and trying to attract the best drivers and sponsors, the best crew.

“I don’t know what that job title is, but it’s definitely all performance related. That’s what interests me and that’s what I think I’m good at.”

Having spent the balance of his IMSA career driving for legendarily successful Corvette Racing, Magnussen knows plenty about what makes a well-oiled motorsports organization tick. And while most racing buffs associate Magnussen with Corvettes given his IMSA titles along with four class wins at Le Mans and another at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, in point of fact, he has perhaps unwittingly been preparing for his new gig by racing Porsches the past few years in Carrera Cup Scandinavia.

Although he’s hung up his driving boots — at least for now — it’s not only because of his commitments to MDK. After all, Magnussen has a role to play in the careers of two other race drivers, namely sons Kevin, who drives for Haas in Formula 1, and Luka, a 14-year-old go-karter.

“For this year I cleared the schedule for MDK,” he says. “I didn’t want my own racing to get in the way. It takes time traveling around the continent, plus I have one son in F1! I don’t go to all the races but to some of them, so that takes up a bit of time. And Luka is in go-karts, so I travel around with him a bit. I wanted to make sure I had time for the kids, so that’s a big job.”

Sort of like the one Jan Magnussen has just stepped into at MDK Motorsports. But if anybody can handle it, he can.


Story originally appeared on Racer