Twin Stevenson Camaros Finish On The Podium In Canada After Leading Most Of The Race
In what has to be considered one of the finest runs this season for the Stevenson Motorsports Team competing in the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, both the No. 97 and No.57 cars finished on the podium. With Grand-Am officials finally conceding the Mazda cars enjoyed a lightweight advantage all season, rules changes - including a new tire for the Camaro - were enacted to allow the magnificently prepared but disadvantaged Camaros to finally battle on an even playing field.
The only downside was that the competition adjustments came too late in the season to have an impact on the battle for the GT championships.
At the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, both the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R., driven by Gunter Schaldach and Ronnie Bremer, and the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, led the during the race. It was only a combination of a late race charge - less than six minutes from the end - by Paul Edwards in the No. 07 Corvette, and a broken front splitter on the No. 57 car that caused Liddell to go off line momentarily, that kept either Stevenson car from taking first place.
The race marked the first time this season both Stevenson cars finished on the podium together.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: "It was really a great performance by the entire team. We had fast cars all weekend and the team had very high hopes with the new tire. We tested the new rear tire at the Glen during the summer, so we knew it would give us better performance during long runs and allow us to fight for race wins."
Johnson outlined the way the race was played out when he said, "The race went exactly to plan for us as we took a wave by and the lead without about an hour to go. The No. 97 crew had a great pit stop that saw them move from 9th to 1st and with Ronnie and Robin in the two cars, we knew we would be very tough to beat. We had to conserve fuel which the drivers were able to do and we were still able to pull away from the Mazdas that also took the wave by. The only thing that could stop us was a yellow flag, and it came with about 30 minutes to go."
In the early part of the race the No. 57 car received a broken splitter when two Daytona Prototypes blocked the track leaving no room for maneuvering out of harm's way.
Andrew Davis was in the car at the time.
Davis: "On the way into turn one after the second restart, a couple of DP cars got tangled causing quite a jam up. I couldn't avoid making slight contact with the car in front of me, causing some damage to the nose of the car. The damage wasn't too bad initially, but the repeated curb strikes necessary to keep the car on pace simply took a toll by the end of the race."
Johnson: "Robin had the lead with 10 minutes to go with Ronnie and the 07 Corvette right behind when all of a sudden the splitter failed completely. The broken and flailing body part forced Robin off line (and the racing surface) just long enough to have the No. 97 car back off to avoid contact thus allowing the Corvette to go by both of them and take the lead.
"The good news is that Ronnie was able to hold onto second place while Robin held off the No. 69 Mazda and No. 44 Porsche to pull down 3rd place."
Liddell described what it was like when the splitter gave way.
"It looked like we had the race under control but with 5 minutes to go the damage sustained to the car after the early race restart incident finally took its toll and the front splitter became completely detached. It got jammed under the car approaching the final corner. Whilst the car had been tricky to drive for most of the race due to a lack of front downforce and a huge vibration under braking, it now became pretty much un-drivable, so it was really all I could do just to hold off the 69 Mazda to finish on the podium."
Gunter Schaldach was again joined by Ronnie Bremer for this race, with regular co-driver Jan Magnussen away for another obligation. The pair proved to be as potent as they needed to be to run at the front and almost nail down a victory.
Schaldach's story of his weekend north of the border follows here.
Schaldach: "I think this weekend things finally came together in our favor. Throughout the year I have been impressed with the crew during pit stops and this race was no exception. I almost feel bad because they do such a great job you just expect it from them. The stops were flawless and really helped get Ronnie on the track in P1. Even on the first Yellow when we came in for a splash of fuel I came in 4th and went out 3rd ahead of the pre-yellow flag leader.
"The weekend didn't go like everyone expected and track time was cut significantly. Having only run one lap in the first practice session, and having never been to this track before, I was very eager to get into the car for the entire second session. I could quickly tell that this race we were going to be on pace due to the balanced construction of the new tire."
Schaldach felt he really needed more time to find his pace on this new circuit, but once he got in some hot laps his optimism level went way up.
"In the second practice session I was able to get into the car for my first real look at the track but there were only 10+ laps before the session was over. I had to bed brakes which took up most of the portion of the session that I had planned to us to learn the track. With that said, I was able to come within 2 tenths of my co-drivers time which was encouraging. To be honest I was actually really shocked at how quickly I got up to speed. Usually it would take me until after the Truman/Akin session to be within .5 seconds of my co-driver. I didn't turn a lap in Practice 3 and when the Truman/Akin session came around I only had another 10+ laps before I needed to qualify."
Davis qualified the No. 57 car and came within a whisker's width of winning the pole.
Davis: "It was obvious to me during my initial laps in practice that the Stevenson Motorsports crew had done a great job preparing a fast car for us! Although the practice sessions were a bit fragmented in regards to green laps, we were able to improve our Pratt & Miller built Camaro GT.R even further leading up to qualifying. After coming so close to grabbing the pole at the last event in Watkins Glen, I set out for the qualifying session determined to maximize the performance of the #57 VinSolutions/VonAllmen Capital Partners/Intersil Camaro. I broke the track record early in the session, and I initially felt that would be enough to keep me at the top of the time sheet. I continued to push both the car and myself to the limit when Mike Johnson came over the radio to tell me that Boris Said had stolen away my pole position!
"Not satisfied with that message, I threw in another flying lap to regain the top spot. Unfortunately, that track record would only stand for a couple of minutes before we were nipped from the pole on the final lap of the session. In the end, it was a great battle and I was pleased to be representing Stevenson Motorsports on the front row."
The team would still like to take that last shot at a win and they have just that, a last shot, coming up at the season ending round in two weeks at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Johnson, Davis and Liddell feel that just may be the only shot they need to get it done.
Johnson: "Now that we finally have a tire we can race, I wish we could start the season over again, but obviously that's not going to happen. We have not been mathematically outside the championship with one race to go since 2007, so all we can really do is go for the win at Miller and try to end the season on a high note. Having both cars on the podium at Montreal is still a great result."
Liddell: ""It was a great weekend for Stevenson Motorsports to get both cars on the podium and for GM Racing to have the podium locked out. Obviously we felt that we had a car that was good enough to win and we did manage to take the lead after the last caution after a good battle with Ronnie in the No.97 car The guys did an excellent job preparing the car and the pit stops were also good, we just lost some track position during the driver change due to the drinks bottle handle breaking off. Overall, it was a good weekend despite the disappointment of not getting the first win for the Stevenson Camaro."
"I am disappointed that we couldn't come away with the first victory for the Camaro GT.R, but it was a very special moment to have the majority of the podium represented by Stevenson Motorsports. The No. 97 Camaro has been working just as hard as we have all season long, and it was great to be able to share the podium celebration with them! I want to thank John and Susan Stevenson, along with everyone on the Stevenson Motorsports squad for a hard fought weekend."
The next and final race on the GRAND-Am Rolex Series schedule will be held September 12 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT
-source: stevenson motorsports