Kevin Magnussen looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks after completing his first test day with Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing.
Mustering a wide smile, the brand-new father, whose daughter arrived seven weeks prematurely on January 11, was indeed at the deep end of exhaustion with all the time spent in hospitals and rushing to reach Sebring International Raceway from Europe. But there was an obvious upside to discuss after turning his first laps in the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-V.R, which followed seven years of focusing on nothing other than Formula 1.
New to IMSA, new to Sebring, and new to something other than F1 machinery, Magnussen says the first day in his new home was filled with energizing highlights.
“It’s been smooth,” he told RACER. “It’s been a really good first day in the car. The team has been great in helping me get to grips with everything. Everything I look at here is new to me. The whole car, of course, but even the language they use to talk about the car, and all the systems, and setup-wise, the language is really different. I feel at home straight away. It’s been awesome to drive a real race car again.
“I’ve been driving an airplane, basically, for the last six or seven years. Which is awesome – driving an F1 car is great fun, but it lacks a little bit of soul. There’s something missing. F1 used to have that, but coming back and driving the Cadillac DPi has been a real eye opener. The sound and the way the engine responds – even the track. Sebring, it doesn’t get more old school than this. It’s kind of a dream come true.”
Strapped into F1 cars made by McLaren, Renault, and Haas gave Magnussen a great feel for cutting-edge aerodynamics, power units, and electronics that don’t exist in other forms of racing. Although his Cadillac DPi-V.R is also laden with immense technology, it was the analog thrills of the 5.5-liter naturally-aspired V8 engine and other raw features in the Dallara-built prototype that came as a revelation.
“Every time I touched the throttle, I got goose bumps,” he enthused. “This is what it’s all about. This is where the passion started. It comes from things like the sound and the smell and the looks. You Americans have that as such an integrated part of sport. I just missed that and didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got out of the car. Such simple delivery of the torque. You touch the throttle and it’s there immediately; no delays. It’s doing what you want. You just want to overrev the engine every time you brake because it sounds so great.”
Between all the drivers who cycled through the No. 01 car on Tuesday, almost 300 miles were completed as the Cadillac completed its shakedown using the first half of the Sebring circuit.
Magnussen will share the car for the full season with Cadillac veteran Renger van der Zande, whom he’s known for quite some time. At the test, he had the first chance to work with Ganassi’s six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who also raced a Cadillac last year, and fellow ex-F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who will play a reserve role at the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Scott has so much experience; he’s a real racer and proved that year after year,” he said. “It’s a real privilege to share a car with him. I’ve got to step up and deliver because my two teammates proved that they have what it takes. They’ve won Daytona several times. It’s all up to me; it’s all there for me to grab and I really feel privileged about that.”
The CGR Cadillac squad will move from Sebring to this weekend’s Roar Before The 24 test at Daytona. At the dawn of his new American adventure in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Magnussen sounds immensely satisfied with the endurance racing career path he’s chosen.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “I get goose bumps even thinking about what’s ahead of us and what we’re facing. I can’t wait for it all.”
Catch the full interview with Magnussen below: