Stevenson Pontiac Stutters And Then Storms To A Podium At Lime Rock The Memorial Day weekend started off very well for the ...
Stevenson Pontiac Stutters And Then Storms To A Podium At Lime Rock
The Memorial Day weekend started off very well for the #57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP-R, running in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, at beautiful Lime Rock Park in northwestern Connecticut. The team transporter arrived on Thursday, after a 3,000 mile trip across country from Laguna Seca, scene of the last race just one week earlier. Once they arrived at this soon to be remodeled facility (a vast amount of paving and related construction activity will find the park closed for the next six weeks) the crew immediately set about repairing the suspension damage incurred at Laguna.
With the red, white and blue Pontiac restored to race-ready condition, Andrew Davis went out and qualified second on the grid, putting him on the outside pole for the start of the Grand-Am Classic GT 250. As the field completed the pace lap and came down the hill and onto the front straight, the green flag waved and suddenly 18 engines were roaring their loudest as the pack headed for the starting line--with one exception.
A plug wire had come loose on the Stevenson mount which put Davis down on power so much so that he immediately fell back from second to eighth as the field entered the first turn. As the lap progressed on the bumpy 1.53 mile circuit, Davis found he simply could not keep up with anyone because of a misfire in the engine, and he began dropping back quickly until he was in secure possession of last place.
As the race progressed, Davis went down a lap to the leaders. Team Manager Mike Johnson outlined what happened and why the team decided to leave Davis out on the track.
"Andrew went down one lap on track and was running very good lap times (.55 seconds) with only seven cylinders, so we decided to leave him out until the mandatory 30 minutes at which point we lost another lap in the pits. When the other cars came in for their mandatory first stop in the first 45 minutes we went back to one lap down and only had one stop left, like everyone else. We stayed one lap down from the #07, #06 and #70 all race, but were able to catch everyone else."
Several in-car attempts to rectify the problem -- such as rebooting the on-board computer -- failed to correct the issue. When Davis finally brought the car into the pits it was discovered that a spark plug wire had worked its way loose. The crew immediately set the problem right and Davis' co-driver, Robin Liddell, took the newly energized race car back out to chase down the competition.
Liddell clearly demonstrated that the crew had indeed rectified the problem as he began a stirring charge to get back to the front of the pack. Setting several fastest laps along the way, Liddell had worked his way up to fifth place and then, after stopping for fresh tires and fuel, he charged back out and drove like a man in search of championship points to move up into fourth place with just over a dozen laps remaining in the race.
And then the luck that had eluded them at the start delivered the goods with three laps remaining in the race. Ron Fellows, driving the race-leading #06 Banner Engineering Pontiac, uncharacteristically spun exiting Big Bend (turn two) putting him off onto the grass. He sat there for over a minute as the field stormed past. On this short circuit, laps took less than a minute to complete and so his misfortune allowed the still hard-charging Liddell to move up into the third place position on the last lap of the race.
Liddell commented on the stirring drive "We got lucky at the finish to get third but it was a case of hammering away after the early problem to see what kind of result we could salvage. Andrew drove well when we had the mechanical issue and the race ran caution-free without a safety car period which aided our recovery. It was made additionally hard because the cooling unit inside the car wasn't working and it was a hot old day which made life a wee bit more challenging.
"Third place is fantastic in the context of what we suffered and the time we lost at the start but in reality it's frustrating because we definitely had a car capable of winning today."
From misfire to spitfire, the #57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP-R crossed the finish line greeted by an exuberant (and relieved) crew.
Johnson: "We win as a team and lose as team. Sometimes the crew makes the drivers look good and sometimes the drivers make the crew look good. Robin and Andrew definitely made the team look good, and we all feel bad that we were not able to give them the finish they deserved. They both stayed focused and drove their hearts out in difficult conditions. We will make it up to them at Watkins Glen next weekend."
The fortunate result at Lime Rock, combined with the win by the points leading Banner Racing #07 car, kept the Stevenson Team in 4th place in the overall Team Championship standings. Davis and Liddell moved up from 7th place to 4th place in the overall driver standings behind the driver pairings of Collins / Edwards (Banner Racing Pontiac), Pumpelly / George Jr. (TRG Porsche) and Ham /Tremblay (SpeedSource Mazda).