No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro picks up top 10 finish at Barber
Camaro finds slippery Alabama racing surface hard on tires
After almost two months of waiting to get back to racing since the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona at the end of January, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet looked to be poised for a strong showing at the GRAND-Am Rolex Series Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Regular Stevenson team driver Robin Liddell was joined for this race by Ronnie Bremer, filling in for the injured John Edwards. Bremer qualified the car third on the starting grid but the race soon saw that quick start dissipate into a seventh place finish in the race.
Team Manager Mike Johnson was pleased with the qualifying performance but he knew the Camaro would struggle to secure a podium placing when all the race laps had been run.
Johnson: “We knew that Barber was going to be tough for the Camaros since we really struggle with rear tire life. As the heaviest car with the smallest rear tire, there is only so much we can do at hot slippery tracks and it showed in the final results. We had a few crew changes since Daytona and I don't think our team has ever been stronger. Once again we had perfect race execution, and put ourselves in a position to take the lead at the first yellow, but the revised Grand-Am wave by procedure dropped us to 8th place and from there we were stuck.”
Well known to be a focused strategist, Johnson decided to take a different tack mid-race in an attempt to counteract tire issues. But even the plans of a pro are subject to chance, once implemented.
“We realized we didn't have the tire life to move forward,” he said, “so we changed from a two stop strategy to a three stop and it almost paid off, but the final yellow came a bit too late and we finished 7th. While this was not a horrible result, we need to be on the podium where we belong if we want to win this championship.”
Liddell’s regular co-driver for the season is John Edwards. He was unable to drive in this race because, like every other athlete looking to do their best at speed, he took to the slopes recently only to find that hard luck harbors no objection to striking anywhere and at any time.
“Unfortunately I tore my ACL while skiing in Jackson Hole between races.” Edwards said, “I've been skiing most of my life and I felt like I was being safe, but I had a freak accident on a Green run near the bottom of the mountain, resulting in a torn ACL. Sadly I had to miss the Barber race, but I am working hard in physical therapy to be back for Homestead. It's less than a week after my operation to reconstruct my ACL and I can already walk under my own power, so things are looking good for Homestead so far.
“I would like to apologize to the crew working on both the GS and GT cars, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson for putting myself out of the Barber weekend. Although I did feel I was being safe while skiing, there are always some risks and therefore it was not the best idea for me to be skiing in the middle of race season. Fortunately, I only anticipate missing one weekend and plan to be back more determined than ever at Homestead."
Ronnie Bremer, who has run with the Stevenson team at select events the last two seasons, joined the team once again, this time to fill in for the ailing Edwards. He got off to a good start but soon found his pace lacking.
“We got off to a good start in second place heading into the first corner,” Bremer said, “but I was on the outside going into turn two so I found myself falling back into third as the pack went through the corner. After that, we had some good speed for about five laps but then we started to lose more and more speed making it difficult to continue to run near the front. The team executed perfect stops and Mike’s strategy was perfect but it was simply not our day.”
Liddell: "Going into the weekend it was a shame that John was not able to compete due to his knee injury, but fortunately Ronnie stepped into the breach as the team's unofficial 'reserve' driver again and did a great job qualifying 3rd and staying close to the front during the opening stint.
“We knew that the tire fall off was going to be our biggest challenge and it was clear from early on that once again the tire could not cope with the stresses of racing and the fall off in lap times was both significant and frustrating. We opted for a three stop strategy to try and counter this problem and in doing so inadvertently cost ourselves a lap when the safety car was deployed.”
“We executed a good race with no mistakes,” Liddell continued, “I believe we called the right strategy from the box and the guys did a great job on the pit stops but in the end the best we could do was 7th. After the late restart we had better tires than the cars ahead of us and we gained one spot and finished halfway alongside the No. 88 Camaro at the flag. A tough weekend although not disastrous in terms of points."