Stevenson Motorsports Powers Up For 2009 Team moves from the LS2 to LS6 power plant In 2008 the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R ran a consistently quick pace going head to head with the Banner Racing Pontiac...
Stevenson Motorsports Powers Up For 2009
Team moves from the LS2 to LS6 power plant
In 2008 the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R ran a consistently quick pace going head to head with the Banner Racing Pontiac in every round of the GT class in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. In the end, the team came up just nine points shy of taking the overall Team and Driver championships. After running in the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona season opening round with the same chassis and engine combination they campaigned in 2008, the team decided to make a change for the balance of the season. The change paid off immediately when the team delivered the first win for the GM LS6 engine in a Pontiac at the Robert Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), on April 25th.
The win came in the first race the Stevenson team ran with that motor. Stevenson Team Manager Mike Johnson explains the reason the team opted to go with a different engine from what the Banner team runs in their Pontiac GXP.R.
"When we started the GXP.R program, our initial goal was to use the same basic package as the factory team (Banner Racing) to learn and to score points for Pontiac. We knew they had a race winning combination. I knew that if we could put together a good pair of drivers, find great reliability in the car and apply some good race strategy we could be just as strong as anyone else.
"Of course, at the last race, we realized the Banner team had upped their game and even without the flat shift, we couldn't touch them on the straights. We pretty much knew right then that we were going to have to do something different if we were going to have an advantage in 2009.
"With the LS2 engine, you can only use KATECH to build the engines. They are also the engine builder used by Banner. For us to try and find a competitive advantage against our number one competitor, we really had no choice but to go to the LS6 so we could set our own course for developing and controlling engine mapping and so on. We felt the only way to control our own destiny was to work with alternate engine builders to get us moving forward. Leaving KATECH was very difficult since we had a great season with them, and our reliability was 100%, but at the end of the day, their check is written by the same guy that writes the checks to the 07 car, and we don't plan on losing to them again this year."
At the Daytona test days session prior to the opening round of the 2009 season -- the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona -- the team decided to run a test using an LS6 V-8 engine in their Pontiac chassis. They had one readily available in the dormant Stevenson Corvette and since the rules had always allowed either an LS2 or LS6 in both the Pontiacs and the Corvettes, the team installed the motor in the Pontiac chassis and ran some laps. They were encouraged by the performance of the LS6 and this experience then whet their appetite for a trial run in a race.
Further testing of the LS6 at the Homestead test in March convinced the team that they wanted to run the LS6 engine in the Pontiac for the balance of the season. So, at VIR, the team installed the LS6 for its first race in the Pontiac and it did not disappoint as it carried the team to its first win of the year.
Johnson: "The LS6 makes great torque, but is a little soft on the top end compared to the LS2. We had a little bit coming out of the corners compared to the 07 car, but we were losing 1-2 mph in the straights, so we have decided to push the development to the next level and try to gain some more power on the top end for Thunderbolt. (New Jersey Motorsports Park)"
For that first race with the LS6 in the Pontiac chassis, some engine modifications had been made and those changes were found to be to the detriment of the engine's performance. For the next round at New Jersey Motorsports Park, the team is having those modifications reversed in favor of the engine's original Grand-Am approved configuration.
Johnson: "It was unfortunate that we had to go through the changes to the engine to learn that what was in place originally worked best but we are certain that the rebuild of the engine to original specs will find us right where we want to be. We remain certain that our decision to go with the LS6 has opened up a whole new avenue of opportunity for us to move forward with the development of the LS6 engine and chassis combination."
The clock is ticking away the hours until the next race and Johnson is anxious to get the rebuild completed in time to put some more racing miles on the potential-laden combination.
Johnson: "Right now our LS6 is back on the dyno at CRD as they try to find more power. Of course we can't get it all done in one day, but we should see a slight improvement for New Jersey. By the time we get to Laguna Seca we hope to be stronger than when we first tested the LS6 at Daytona and Homestead. We feel we are now finally moving forward with our quest to come out on top this season. At the banquet last year, John Stevenson made the point that he wanted his car to be showcased on stage and that's what we're planning to do."
The third round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series will take place on Sunday, May 3rd at New Jersey Motorsports Park.