Stevenson Pontiac GXP-R Homestead Race Report Bad Bushing Belts Pontiac Off Track The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GAINSCO Grand Prix at Homestead Speedway marked two significant milestones for the ...
Stevenson Pontiac GXP-R Homestead Race Report
Bad Bushing Belts Pontiac Off Track
The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GAINSCO Grand Prix at Homestead Speedway marked two significant milestones for the #57 Stevenson Motorsports - BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP-R that competes in the GT class. One will be remembered for the positive results in qualifying and the other for the negative results in the race.
Andrew Davis qualified in second place on the starting grid, the first time a Stevenson Motorsports entry has ever qualified that high. Davis' lap time was 1:19.841 or 103.706 mph. Understandably, he was enthusiastic about the team's prospects when he spoke at the post qualifying press session.
"We have been upfront all weekend," Davis said. "Right off of the truck we were fast. We actually went faster this morning. The track is slippery from the heat. The Stevenson team has prepared a great car. Robin (Liddell, his co-driver) and I are able to run fast consistent laps and we hope to carry that over tomorrow. It is an all GXP-R front row, a great effort for just our second race with the car."
Alas, despite a good start and a great run that had Davis and his teammate Robin Liddell charging at and near the front, the second milestone -- in the form of an unexpected mechanical failure -- knocked the duo out of the race with just 58 laps completed. A bushing in the power steering rack failed and, as Team Manager Mike Johnson explains, that part had never failed in any other trials of any of the other Pratt & Miller built Pontiac GXP-R's, for any team.
"There is a bushing on the power steering rack that failed. The belts, the pumps, and the rest of the elements in the system were fine. It was a manufacturer defect and nothing the crew could have tested or fixed ahead of time. No one has a reason or explanation. Pratt & Miller has said they have had some problems with the rack on the GXP-R but even they said they never saw this particular problem before today. I know that they put many hours into disassembling new racks they receive from their supplier, installing new pistons and new internals and torque settings and so on. They spend a lot of time to get those racks ready. We are all disappointed and Pratt & Miller are going to thoroughly examine what happened and see what can be done to prevent this from happening again."
Robin Liddell, like Davis and the rest of the Stevenson Team, entered the race full of optimism for a strong performance. Despite the setback, he remains upbeat about what is to come for this continually developing team and car.
"We'd been quickest in trials on Thursday, Andrew qualified second and then we ran very competitively in the race and were challenging for the lead so it's disappointing. But it's a new car and we're going to get frustrations along the way. The team did a very good job and I'm now just focusing on Mexico."
Johnson wasn't surprised at his team's performance compared to the other teams running Pontiac GXP-R's in the race. But the Mazda's and Porsches' did seem off the pace.
"I was more surprised that the Porsche and Mazda cars weren't as fast. In qualifying I can understand that maybe they don't have their lead drivers, and we have two very strong drivers in Robin and Andrew that might give us an edge, but even in race trim, when we had our failure we were in second place. We were ahead of the car that ended up winning. We all made the pit stop at the same time. All we would have needed to do is stop one more time for tires and fuel and that should have been an easy stop. But, unfortunately that never happened.
"The part failure took us out of second place and a sure podium, perhaps even a win."
For just its second time up against competition, the Stevenson Pontiac has shown what a commitment to excellence can yield. A strong run at the Rolex 24 followed by an even stronger run at Homestead are proof positive the team's efforts are sure to pay off soon.
"We are getting better with the car. Every weekend we learn more about the car. And we have an outstanding working relationship with Kyle Millay, the engineer from Pratt & Miller who works with us. Having him on board has been a huge help. And the team is just gelling real well. But I know that a problem like this has to be so disappointing to John and Susan Stevenson. Every weekend we seem to be in line for a good finish and then something that never happened before happens."
At the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona - the first race of the 2008 season, and the debut race for the Stevenson Motorsports BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP-R -- the team made it into the wee hours of the morning when an overzealous Daytona Prototype crashed into the car putting them out of contention. With two races down and lost to issues out of the team's control, Johnson sees any hopes of a championship season perhaps slipping away.
"There is no question in my mind that we are going to win a race or two this year. If we could have gotten back on track with repairs that would have allowed us to salvage a 10th or 12th place finish (the team was credited with 24th place in this race) then we could have still salvaged a championship run. The biggest disappointment for us is this failure may have removed any championship hopes for this season."
But there are 13 races left on the schedule and he, and everyone else on the team, expects positive results will yet come, starting with the very next race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.
"Our problem is that you can sit back and look at Stevenson Motorsports the last three years and say, 'Yeah, they are fast and can put a good lap time down, but they won't be around at the end so don't worry about them. But we need to change that mindset and get people to know that we are going to be a threat right through the last lap! We are definitely going to Mexico not looking for a podium, but instead to kick some butt!