No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Is First Chevrolet GT To Cross Line at the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona
After 24 hours Stevenson Team finishes a close fourth behind Daytona-friendly Porsche parade. Sister car, No. 75 Camaro drops out with transmission failure with 21 hours completed
On a weekend dedicated to remembering 50 years of memorable racing action at Daytona International Speedway, America’s ‘World Center of Racing’, one American race team created an all new memory of their own with a very strong finish in a race that saw new rules and favorable conditions for the competition play a role in the outcome. After 24 hours of running a nearly flawless race – and at a pace akin to a sprint race - the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro crossed the finish line in fourth place in the GT class, the teams highest ever finish in this American classic event, the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the opening race of the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season.
The efforts of drivers Robin Liddell, John Edwards and Ronnie Bremer worked in perfect harmony with Team Manager Mike Johnson and Crew Chief Mike Hoffman’s strategy and preparation. Despite having to carry added weight in the Camaro, and not withstanding a speed differential to the advantage of the Porsche cars that finished 1-2-3, the Stevenson team performed flawlessly and came away feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: “I always tell the crew before the race that things will go wrong and the team that handles the problems most efficiently will win the race. We prepare for every situation before we get there and have plans for all scenarios. This year, we didn't have to use a single one as the team and car ran at 100% for 24 straight hours. We never had a pit stop that lasted longer than the time needed to add fuel - other than stops to make brake changes. The car held together throughout the day and night and the only thing that fell off the car was a driver helmet blower hose. Michael Hoffman and his guys put together one of the best prepared cars to ever go to Daytona, but unfortunately, so did three other Porsche teams and we finished fourth.”
Team Owner John Stevenson expressed his admiration for his team’s diligent approach to preparing for this grueling event, delivering an outcome that positions them for a season that holds much promise for a run at the championship.
“I am extremely elated and proud of our entire team.” Stevenson said, “Michael Hoffman, our Crew Chief, led us to Daytona with the team prepared for this race better than we have ever been. The No. 57 Camaro GT.R performed flawlessly all weekend as did our great pit crew. We had what were consistently the best pit stops for a 24 hour race in our history. The drivers, Robin Liddell, John Edwards and Ronnie Bremer, were robotic. Our Engineer, Ben Johnson, was an obvious key to our successful weekend and Mike Johnson led our organization through a near perfect 24 hours. His calls from the box and his strategy are exceeded by no one. Our race results, however, as good as they were, were tainted by the poor officiating for this event.”
Johnson too felt the management of this race by Grand-Am suffered from the introduction of a new rule regarding wave-bys during caution periods.
Johnson: “From our standpoint the race was an absolute success even though we were not on the podium and it feels great going into the rest of the season near the top of the points chart. However this race was not without issues as Grand-Am was trying a new wave by procedure that they did not truly understand and on three separate occasions, we went from the lead of the race to being placed one lap down. It was horribly frustrating for all teams since it felt like we were working at times without a rule book. Saying all that, the team and drivers persevered and fought all the way to the end taking 4th place away from the Risi Ferrari.”
Robin Liddell will contest the entire 2102 Rolex season with co-drive John Edwards in the No. 57 Camaro. He had a special moment before the race when he was asked to pose for photographs with the rest of the drivers who hailed from Scotland all standing alongside none other than Scotland’s most famous racing driver, Jackie Stewart. This 50th Anniversary event was indeed a special moment in time and one Liddell will not readily forget.
Liddell: “The atmosphere for this special event was fantastic and the quality of the field of cars and drivers meant it was always going to be a tough challenge. I thought the race went very well from a Stevenson Motorsports standpoint; the preparation of the car was superb and the guys did a first class job in the pits. In that respect, it was the best performance by the Camaro and the team at Daytona. It was just a little frustrating that Porsche were allowed to run away with it and frankly although we ran fast and consistently throughout the race, we didn't have the speed we needed to get on terms with the Porsche. That being said, it was a good start to the championship and our best to date.
“I hope this is the start of a great year, Liddell continued, “that puts the Chevy Camaro on top with the best team in GT! Many thanks again to Johnny and Susan for their commitment and to all the guys for their efforts both in the run up to and during the race.”
John Edwards will be doing double duty on the Stevenson team in 2012 with a season long ride in both the Rolex Series with Liddell in the No. 57 GT.R and the Continental Tire Challenge with Matt Bell in the No. 9 GS.R.
Edwards: “"After 24 hours of racing, fourth place can seem a little frustrating as we are the first to not spray champagne, but the entire Stevenson team can be proud of our preparation and performance during this difficult race. The car had no issues and the crew executed every pit stop perfectly, and we finished on the lead lap. Unfortunately, we just did not have the speed of the Porsches on the straightaway, so we knew we were not going to pass them if they had no issues that brought them to pit lane.
“Fourth place after a grueling 24 hours is a great start to the overall championship as well as the endurance championship, especially as the site of the next endurance round at Watkins Glen is a place that the Camaro should excel. I'm looking forward to a strong season with Robin in the No. 57 Stevenson Camaro."
For this race the team entered the Camaro chassis that had been rebuilt after the horrendous crash at Watkins Glen last season. This chassis had been run previously by the team as a Pontiac but was converted to the Camaro body prior to the start of the 2010 season. The No. 75 Chevrolet Camaro was piloted by Matt Bell, Eric Curran, Al Carter and Hugh Plumb and it will make additional appearances this season at the three events that make up the new North American Endurance Championship.
Unfortunately, the No. 75 Camaro did not complete the full 24 hours as transmission troubles put the car out with just three hours left to run.
Johnson: “The No. 75 Camaro did not have the same success as the No. 57, but they still put in an excellent race. Two random and early half-shaft failures caused the car to go multiple laps down early into the event and then with about four hours to go, the side blew out of the gearbox.”
Hugh Plumb: “First off I want to say thank you to the entire Stevenson Motorsports team and to Pratt and Miller and Kyle Milay and especially Mike Johnson and John and Susan Stevenson for a great opportunity to run in the 50th Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. At the beginning of the race we showed good pace but unfortunately our mechanical issues put us back. We were able to claw our way back through the field only to have another half-shaft let go. Through the night we had been able to make up lots of positions moving up to around 27th place by Sunday morning. At that point it looked as if we could finish strong but with three hours to go the gearbox let go and that was the end of our race. While it was extremely unfortunate that we did not do better, my co-drivers Al Carter, Eric Curran and Matt Bell did an amazing job doing what they had to do to keep the car out of trouble. I would love an opportunity to run with them and this team again!”
Eric Curran joined the team for this race, taking a break from his normal role as a driver in the No. 31 Whelen Corvette as that car was not entered in this race. He enjoyed the experience of working with this team he normally competes against but this time he wasn’t happy the Stevenson Team did not finish well.
“Overall I had a great weekend with the Stevenson Team.” Curran noted. “It didn’t end as we all had hoped but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I had a great qualifying stint in the No.75 Stevenson Camaro, ending up in the 13th spot out of 42. Normally I wouldn’t be happy with13th, but in this tough field that wasn’t so bad. And being the second Camaro at the front didn’t hurt either.
“I started the race on Saturday and things were going really well. We ran inside the top 10 for a first few hours. Matt Bell then jumped in for a few stints and not long after we broke our first half-shaft. Repairs set us back 15 laps and marked the beginning of our down turn. A few hours later we broke another half-shaft. It isn’t clear why this happened but the damage set us back a number of laps.
“I did four two-hours stints in the car and I had a good time. There are always a few close calls especially at night but we hardly put a mark on the car. We continued to charge hard and made it to the 21 hour mark until the transmission finally gave up. I wish our luck had gone a different route but that’s racing. All the guys who worked on the No. 75 worked hard to keep us going all weekend.
“I want to say thanks to John Stevenson, Michael Johnson, the Crew and the guys at Chevy for helping to make this all happen. This was such a big event with massive attendance. I was happy to be a part of it. Guardian Angel and The Starlight foundation brought some wonderful kids by our paddock and I really enjoyed spending time with them before the race.”
The Rolex 24 hours at Daytona was not the end of the road for the No. 75 Camaro. GRAND-AM recently announced a new North American Endurance Championship for 2012. The inaugural championship features the 50th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona along with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 29-July 1 and the Rolex Series’ three-hour debut race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27. Car No. 75 will return to compete in that championship once it has been returned to race ready condition.
Johnson: “We look forward to getting the car back together as it will return to the series for Indy and the 6 Hours of the Glen as part of the North American Endurance Championship.”
While not coming away with a win in race one, John Stevenson is very optimistic his team’s great first effort will set the tone for a solid run at the Drivers and Manufacturer’s Championships in 2012.
Stevenson: “After the great run here at Daytona, I am really looking forward to the rest of our 2012 season.” The next race on the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule will take place on April 1st at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.