Stevenson Camaro GT.R Qualifies On Front Row But Is Swayed From A Podium Finish After Liddell qualifies second on the grid, broken sway bar knocks them off the pace
Robin Liddell put the pedal to the metal at Barber Motorsports Park for the third race of the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season. His stirring qualifying run in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R put the competition on notice that this Chevy was here to win.
After stints at the front of the pack early on in the race, long yellow caution periods and a broken sway bar in the suspension slowed the pace of the eagle-adorned Camaro, eventually ending the GT duel in the hot Alabama sun with a ninth place finish.
With so much promise ahead, the team could not fully comprehend how the fates had denied them a podium finish.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: “"I'm really at a loss for words with this one. We never seemed to get out of our own way since the very first session. We had issues across the board with the car, but we handled them as well as we could until the sway bar broke and our race was basically over. It's such a shame because we have a great crew, car, drivers, sponsors, and owners, but nothing is going our way.”
With track temperatures over 130 degrees, the question of driver comfort and tire performance were primary considerations. Robin Liddell certainly knew it was hot.
“It was the hottest day of the year,” he said, “so with the higher track temperatures grip and tire conservation was always going to be a problem. Fortunately the track stayed pretty clean (of tire ‘marbles’) throughout the race.”
Liddell and co-driver Jan Magnusson normally go one-two, splitting the driving chores but in the steamy Alabama heat they had to go one-two-one in order to avoid dehydration.
“While our pit stops were good,” said Liddell, “we ran a bit long because we had to put the cool box in at the first stop as the a/c was not working properly. We lost time with that and then we did an extra driver change which also cost us a little time as the cockpit temperature was pretty high and that meant I went back in the car for the finish of the race.”
The race itself showed early promise with Liddell running with the front of the field. As the laps ticked away, however, contact with a podium step became an impossible outcome as a different kind of contact set the Stevenson car up for a rough ride.
Towards the end of the race the car was pretty much undriveable.
Liddell: “We had a pretty clean race but got spun around by a DP which was also involved in another incident two laps later with the No. 59 GT car. At this point we were still in quite good shape but after two laps I felt the car's handling deteriorate suddenly and it turned out we had a broken front sway bar. Towards the end of the race the car was pretty much undriveable. Whether the contact caused the damage is hard to say.”
With three races down this season, the Stevenson team that has such a great history in the GT class the last few seasons is finding it difficult to score the points it will need to get back into the hunt for a 2011 championship. Difficulties, however, are what make a team great when they fight back and go on to success. That is certainly what Team Manager Johnson plans to do.
Johnson: “I'm afraid to even look at the points right now, but it can't be good. We are going to be making some changes between now and VIR to get the mighty eagle back into victory lane."
The next race on the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 schedule will be April 25th at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, VA
-source: stevenson motorsports