Stevenson Camaro GT.R Takes Pole And GT Win At Lime Rock
Liddell gets pole, team gets the win and fans get a great show
“Everything just went our way today,” said an emotional Robin Liddell after the fifth round of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season held on a very hot and humid day at beautiful Lime Rock Park. Liddell and Jan Magnussen co-drive the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R and this marked the first win for this team in this car this season. The win had additional meaning for Liddell who qualified on the pole and then teamed with Magnussen to go all the way to the checkered flag.
“I want to say thanks to the guys for persevering as hard as they have,” Liddell said, “and to Stevenson Motorsports and Chevrolet for all of their support. This is a very emotional day for me because my Dad passed away three weeks ago so more than anything, I just want to dedicate this to him.”
It rained hard on the morning of race day – Memorial Day - and all the cars ran the earlier minutes of the practice sessions on a wet track. By the time the qualifying session started, the road surface was dry and this led to Liddell having the right amount of grip to land the pole position. The morning rain, however, left the area in a very humid state.
Jan Magnussen may have been sweating the oppressively hot and humid day in the Berkshire Hills of northwestern Connecticut, just as the fans were, but he ran a cool race in a hot car on a hot track and gave the many Chevrolet fans in attendance a great finale to the holiday weekend.
“This weekend just came together for us from the beginning,” said Magnussen. “We had a good car in the wet and the dry. In the race, we made no mistakes. We just kept pushing. It just doesn’t make sense sometimes why we win races and why we lose them. We’ve been in this position many times, this time we just put it together. I am so happy for Robin and so happy for the team.”
Team Manager Mike Johnson thought the heat might be on before the team even got to Lime Rock when team owner John Stevenson said they needed to talk.
Johnson: “Last week John Stevenson met with Crew Chief Michael Hoffman and I and we were anticipating the worst, but he just told both of us that he continues to believe in us and not to get caught up in the bad luck we'd been having. We all feel the pressure now that we have support from GM Racing, and even though we just won five races ago at the 2010 finale, it feels like it's been years. Having Johnny reassure us of his confidence in us really gave us a boost. He told us just to do what we know how to do and no one could beat us, and he was right. The Stevenson's are the best owners in the paddock and you really see how Johnny's style of management gets the best out of people and why Stevenson Auto continues to be in the top 125 dealers in the US.”
In the race, we made no mistakes.
Johnson described the team’s day that saw practice, qualifying and the race all take place in a window of less than 12 hours. “One day events are great for some and horrible for others. For us it was both.” Johnson continued, “The first hour of practice was wet, so we learned nothing, then we had 15 minutes of practice on a dry track and 15 minutes of qualifying followed by an hour to bring the car to tech, and finally prep for the race. During those precious hours, the IPU wasn't working properly, the Air Conditioning failed, the car was not handling great and we had damage in qualifying. With all that going on, Michael (Hoffman), ‘Chachi’ (Chris Minot) and Pat (Hughes) just did an amazing job addressing all the issues and even the GS guys helped quite a bit to overcome all the problems and then, off we went.
“About 30 minutes into the race, I was expecting Robin to say the heat was unbearable, but he didn't and Jan was in the car for an hour and 45 minutes with no issues as well. The last 30 minutes were probably the hardest of the day because we had a huge lead and we were all just expecting something to break, run out of fuel, or for Jan to get too hot. When he finally crossed the line, you could hear a collective sigh of relief from the whole team. Now we have another quick turnaround before the next race, the 6 hours of the Glen.”
The No. 57 Camaro was in front of the rest of the GT field for 107 of the total 169 laps of the race. Liddell started the race and it was Magnussen who drove the final 79 laps and saw the black and white flag before anyone else in the GT field. The team also scored their first racing trifecta. Pole, Fast Lap in the Race and Win. You could even say they had a 'quadfecta' since they also led the most laps. The #57 now has 3 poles, 1 win, and is the only car to lead laps in every race this year.
In addition to winning first place money, the Stevenson team claimed a $25,000 Horsepower Award bonus posted by Continental Tire, the official tire of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season.
By the 2:00 PM start of the race, the always green hillsides at Lime Rock had been transformed into a sea of colors – with red, white and blue everywhere - as the fans came out in droves to brave the heat and see some great racing. While the rains had moved away before noon, their presence earlier had left the air thick with moisture but people still showed up and provided track management with what they called “one of the bigger Lime Rock Memorial Day crowds in recent memory.”
For the Stevenson team, this was a great day to win their first race in 2011. The team helps to support the Hope For The Warriors campaign (www.hopeforthewarriors.org). Hope For The Warriors® is a national, nonprofit organization that supports wounded U.S. service members, their families, and families of the fallen. A group of military wives founded the organization in 2006. They stood together as they witnessed, firsthand, the effects of the war on service members and their families. Since that time, Hope For The Warriors® has grown tremendously in the span of programs offered and the number of wounded and family members assisted.
The timing for the team’s first win could not have been better. At one of America’s first dedicated sportscar circuits (opened in 1957) Lime Rock Park, and on Memorial Day 2011, the Stevenson Camaro took the win before a huge and appreciative crowd, in an all-American Chevrolet, adorned in America’s colors and displaying an American eagle. What a fantastic way to honor America’s servicemen and women!
The next race on the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 schedule will be the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, June 4th, at Watkins Glen International Raceway in Watkins Glen, NY.
-source: stevenson motorsports