Alabama Heat And Excess Pounds Burn Up A Likely Win For Stevenson Pontiac If you have never wondered why the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 would schedule a race in Alabama in July, you most certainly...
Alabama Heat And Excess Pounds Burn Up A Likely Win For Stevenson Pontiac
If you have never wondered why the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 would schedule a race in Alabama in July, you most certainly would ask the question now, after a grueling race that ran in 100 degree heat and took its toll on drivers and tires.
After holding onto the lead in the GT class for almost the entire race -- the Porsche 250 by Bradley Arant - the rubber on the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, simply burned off with a few laps still left in the race. Liddell was doing all he could to hold onto the lead but he simply had no grip left and over the last few laps he found his lead burning away. He was first passed by the #70 SpeedSource Mazda, driven by Nick Ham, with just a handful of laps remaining. Shortly thereafter Dirk Werner in the Farnbacher Loles Porsche managed to slip past into second. And then, with just a little under a single lap to go, Liddell went wide in a turn -- for lack of grip -- and his momentary slide off onto the grass gave Andy Lally in a TRG Porsche just enough room to slip by on the inside and take the last podium step away from the otherwise dominant Liddell.
Liddell: "The car was not close to being a perfect handling racecar, except for the first few laps on new tires, but overall the car was obviously competitive. That being said, we had built a good lead but with the late cautions and the Mazda right behind us we were just a sitting duck."
The heat was a factor in tire wear and driver wear as well.
Liddell: "The work that the team has done on cooling the cockpit since Watkins Glen has improved the foot well / pedal box temperatures a lot, but overall the heat in the car is still pretty unbearable after an hour or so. We had a larger drinks bottle fitted which also helped.
"In general the tires performed very well, it's not like the tire was destroyed at the end, simply that it was not offering enough grip on a car 600 lbs heavier than another on the same piece of track at the same time."
Since the Lime Rock round, the added weight and 51/49% weight ratio adjustment imposed by Grand-Am has prevented any of the Pontiac teams from taking a win. At Barber, the Stevenson team applied all of its strategic strength and crew capability to the task but in the end the penalty -- and the heat -- combined to push them off the podium.
Team Manager Johnson is disappointed that Grand-Am has yet to see the adjustments have not leveled the playing field, but instead have put the Pontiacs at a real disadvantage.
"It's a shame when the entire team performs perfectly and we still have no chance of winning." Johnson said, "Our strategy, pit stops, and drivers were perfect which gave us a huge lead, but the late yellows brought the Mazda's and Porsches right up to our bumpers, and no driver can block against a 7 mph disadvantage. The rules are so upside right now that we can only drive around and hope other teams make mistakes, (an approach that has) worked since Watkins Glen. Hopefully Grand-Am will finally realize the Pontiac is at a disadvantage and let us go racing the last 3 races."
Davis summed up the race this way: "Obviously, we are disappointed with the end result considering the manner in which the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R dominated the majority of the race. At the start, I was able to match the pace of the lead Mazda as the both of us simply left the rest of the field behind. At that point in time, the car felt great and I knew that we were going to have a shot at the win. Not surprisingly, the pit strategy and stops were flawless which enabled us to build an even bigger lead. The race was really looking good for us until the late race cautions closed up the field. Unfortunately, we were unable to hold onto the top spot in the end."
The Porsche 250 by Bradley Arant was the 10th race of the Rolex Series 2008 season for the GT class. It marked the eighth time the #57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R has finished in the top ten. In six of those races, Davis and Liddell have stood on the podium.
With this fourth place finish, Stevenson teammates Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis sustained their third place standings in the GT Driver's Championship, and the Stevenson Team also remains in third place in the GT Team Championship standings.