Magnussen Puts Stevenson Camaro GT.R On Pole At Miami
After running in the top three spots stud failure in last half hour drops team to 16th place
Jan Magnussen put the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R on the pole for the start of the Grand Prix of Miami, the second race of the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. This marked the first time the Camaro had started at the front and as the race progressed the prospects for a winning finish seemed in the cards.
For over two hours it looked like the team of Robin Liddell and Jan Magnussen were well on the way to holding a winning hand until the cards folded when repairs for a suspension problem took them out of the action just long enough to knock them out of contention for a podium spot.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: “First of all, it was great to finally get our first GT pole. With all the success we have had over the last three years, we have never had a pole, so this was a great way to start the rest of the season.”
At least it was great until the clock counted down to a meltdown.
“We knew from the practice times that we were not going to have anything for the No. 94 BMW M3,” Johnson continued, “so once (Bill) Auberlen got in the car and took the lead we knew the best we were going to do was finish 2nd. That is where we ran most of the race but with about 35 minutes to go, we took the opportunity to sticker up (put on new tires), and the BMW stayed out, so it was going to be our only chance, but we were going to have to come through the field.”
Liddell has often been the one to ‘come through the field’ and he did not disappoint in Miami.
Johnson: “Within three or so laps, Robin was back into 3rd behind the No. 69 Mazda and the No. 94 BMW M3. He was charging hard and was catching them both when the studs on the right-rear upright failed and we were done.”
Liddell: "Tire wear was not too much of a problem but the grip was absolutely hopeless. The car was difficult to drive over a full stint because of this although I think that with the track time available before the race we made a pretty good job of setting the car up as well as could be expected."
With Robin behind the wheel for the last two hours, it became evident they would not be able to make any gains on the leader as the Turner BMW M3 was lapping more than .5 seconds per lap faster on new and old tires. With 35 minutes to go, Team Manager Mike Johnson was not content with 2nd, and decided to go for the win, so they came down pit lane dropping the car to 6th, but with new tires. They quickly got back to third, when the failure happened.
Liddell continues: “After the pit stop we hoped the new tires would give us a chance to challenge the BMW for the win. After four green flag laps I felt the rear get very loose in the banking and I had a pretty big moment as the rear hub cracked and sheared three wheel studs. We were pretty lucky not to hit the wall. The parts have been isolated for closer inspection so hopefully we can figure out what went wrong."
Despite the setback, Liddell found some comfort in feeling the Camaro had shown itself well until the part failure.
"The car performed very well and was very well prepared throughout the weekend,” Liddell noted, “but unfortunately the pace of the BMW was such that we had no chance to compete on their level. We were the best of the rest if you like."
Johnson: “So far this has been by far the worst start to a season we have ever had but we have a great team and great drivers and we will bounce back."
Robin Liddell is also taking steps to have Cystic Fibrosis research ‘bounce back’ with a cure by running in the upcoming Virgin London Marathon 2011 to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a UK charity that supports global research into a cure for this debilitating illness. Liddell: “I am entered as part of a team by the British Racing Driver's Club and we have a fundraising page everyone is encouraged to visit at www.justgiving.com/BRDC-marathon2011
The next race on the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 schedule will be held at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 9th.
More information about the Stevenson Motorsports team, and the new Stevenson performance shop, can be found on Facebook. For more information on the Grand-Am Rolex Series, go to www.grand-am.com/rolex/ Stevenson Motorsports operates out of a facility located in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
-source: stevenson motorsports