New Stevenson Camaro GT.R Chassis Knocked out of 1st at Road America
Chassis 007 Wrecked at Watkins Glen so team elects to go with replacement
After the crash at Watkins Glen that severely damaged their car, the Stevenson Motorsports team elected to run a new chassis at Road America for the seventh race of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season. The race started out looking like a case of ‘beginner’s luck’ with Jan Magnussen qualifying the brand new car second on the grid. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R Magnussen shared with Robin Liddell immediately pulled into the lead before the first lap was completed.
Magnussen was moving forward very quickly and when it came time to hand off to Liddell, he too found his pace to be quick enough to stay in front of a charging pack of Mazda’s, Porsche’s and BMW’s, along with several other Camaro entries. Then, with under an hour left in the race, one of the Mazda cars ran into the back of Liddell, spinning him off course. By the time Liddell got pointed back in the right direction most of the GT field had passed him by.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: “Unfortunately, this was not the debut of the "new 57" we were looking for. After the crash at Watkins Glen, we decided to bring out our new car on short notice since we were out of the points and the damage to chassis 007 was not going to be finished quickly enough for us to properly prepare the car. We did a quick shake down of chassis 009 at VIR last week and then we brought the car to Road America.”
“The race was going pretty well for us", Johnson noted, “as Jan jumped into the lead on lap one and Robin maintained the lead after the first stop. There was a very long yellow for a major crash. Our strategy was right for the win, but we got knocked out of the lead by the No.70 car, again, and then we ran into car troubles.”
Liddell: “Unfortunately it was another disappointing race for us. We had reasonable pace throughout the weekend, and Jan was able to get into the lead on the first lap and pull out a comfortable margin for the first few laps. But by lap five there was a big crash which sent out the safety car for a long time. By the time everyone had changed drivers we were back into the lead and I made a good restart and was able to pull out a gap.”
The lengthy caution period was brought on by a tremendous crash that saw the No. 07 Camaro lose its brakes, crash into the back of the No. 40 Mazda, and then speed almost over the gravel trap at full speed running head on into the tire barrier. Driver Gunter Schaldach – who raced with the Stevenson team last season – then found his car airborne as it vaulted over the tires and over the top of the high barrier fencing. The car flipped over one time and came to land on the other side of the fence and, fortunately, Schaldach was able to walk away unharmed. Joe Foster, driving the Mazda also hit the tire barrier and the safety crew had to cut away the roof of the car in order to extricate him. He was carried out on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation.
Once the barrier repairs were completed, and the crashed cars were removed, the race resumed, Liddell found he was still the man to beat and it seemed, at least one other GT car felt it was their obligation to personally deliver a beating...
Liddell: “We had feared the straight line speed of the Mazda’s Porsche’s and BMW would be a factor in the race and by the time we were ready to come in for our first fuel stop after the lengthy caution, the No. 70 Mazda was right behind me going into turn five. I was able to stay ahead on the twisty sections, but again he closed in on me heading into turn 12. I moved very early to the inside to show clearly that I would defend my position, but he just hit me square in the back and turned me around.”
“Once I got back on track,” Liddell continued, “I came straight into the pits for fuel and tires. When we went back out after a lap or so we picked up a misfire and then started to have problems with the gearbox which lasted for the rest of the race. It was a shame because I think without these problems we would have been competitive. The guys have worked tirelessly these last couple of weeks to get everything together with the new car so it was especially frustrating not to be able to get a result for them.”
Racing veterans know the chances of winning with a new car only improve over time and here the Stevenson team was running at the front the first time out. Being a veteran of the game, Johnson knew that a new car requires experience before it can acquire accolades and so he has set his sights on the future.
“While we were able to put some great laps down and even continue our streak of leading laps every race this year,” Johnson said, “I think it was a just a bit too soon to bring this car to the track. Saying all that, the crew did a great job trying to prepare everything and it is good to get some miles on the new chassis in preparation for next year. I think at this point, we are going to concentrate on developing this car and hopefully we can get a few more wins for Chevrolet, but if the championship wasn't out of reach after Watkins Glen, it sure is now.”