Southern Florida's Homestead -- Miami International Speedway hosted the third round of the 2007 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Reserves on Saturday, March 24th. Both the ...
Southern Florida's Homestead -- Miami International Speedway hosted the third round of the 2007 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Reserves on Saturday, March 24th. Both the #57 and #97 Stevenson Motorsports Corvettes were in the race looking for a GT class podium finish, but sometimes getting what you wants comes down to how you handle things. And for this round, the team just could not seem to get the cars to handle like potential winners should.
The #57 Crawford Race Cars built Corvette finished in 12th place with the #97 Riggins Engineering built car right behind in 13th spot. Both cars ran the race at an average of 81 miles per hour, just one mile per hour less than the class winning Mazda, albeit one lap behind at the end.
Vic Rice and Tommy Riggins shared the driving chores in the #97 car and Rice made it clear the car just wasn't set up where it needed to be as there was little harmony between the chassis, the tires, and the track configuration.
"The Hoosier tires had good initial grip but couldn't last a full fuel stint without significant degradation. We tried to manage as best we could but the car became progressively loose after as little as 20 minutes. All in all we ran a compromised setup anticipating tire wear in hopes that others would suffer as badly - or worse - than we did late in a stint. "
Team Crew Chief Mike Johnson's frustration over not being able to get the cars set up just right came through clearly when he said, "All weekend we fought some pretty difficult oversteer that we just couldn't overcome. We made every change possible, but we just couldn't get the car to handle the way we wanted, and we finished 12th. Not much more to say than that."
Marc Bunting, who along with Dominic Cicero II ran in the #57 car, concurred.
"Homestead is always a difficult track for car set up due to high temps, and the combination of oval and infield track configuration. We never did get the set up right on the car and that clearly showed in our finish. But the crew did a great job on pit stops and that kept us in the race."
Despite the set-up setback, Rice felt the team had a shot at a top 10 finish but for one missed opportunity.
"The #97 car ran superbly in the early going and we were able to move up several spots with good traffic management and by avoiding contact on the many re-starts. We timed our final full stop under yellow, and within our fuel window to run to the end, but an unfortunate miscalculation caused us to narrowly miss clearing pit out prior to the pace car reaching start finish which cost us at least a 6th place finish."
While the desired results did not come for this team this time, Rice suggests getting where the team wants to be may be an uphill battle due to current race regulations.
"The rules as they currently stand do not allow us to keep pace with the Mazda and front running 997 Porsches. This is obvious to Grand-Am and I'm sure they are weighing their options to keep GT from becoming a one or two mark series.
"The Stevenson crew and drivers are doing everything we can to put the most competitive Corvettes on track however, if the Corvette can't keep pace on straight line speed then we have no chance fighting it out with the front runners."
Rice also voiced his opinion on the number of yellow flag caution periods in this race, a marked departure from the prior round in Mexico where the entire race was run under green flag conditions.
"The race was interrupted by several cautions resulting from cars being stuck in the gravel. I'm not clear why the traps at turn 1 and 8 are there as there is ample runoff room. If high grip paving were used there instead, it would suffice to protect both driver and machine from harm while not disrupting the rhythm and flow of the race."
Round four of the series will be at Virginia International Raceway at the end of April. The team will use this welcome four week-plus break in the schedule to work on maximizing the capability of both cars. Rice is already looking forward to getting back into it with the rest of the GT field.
"I'm looking forward to running VIR next month, which is a good track for us, and hopefully circumstances will allow us to compete at the sharp end of the grid. Meanwhile the team will be working hard to insure that our cars are the best they can be."
The VIR 400K race will take place on April 29th.