A Potential Victory For Stevenson Pontiac Ends After Late Race Contact Robin Liddell's Incredible Charge To The Front Ends With A Bang With a lap and a half remaining in the 2 hour 45 minute race at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, UT, the...
A Potential Victory For Stevenson Pontiac Ends After Late Race Contact
Robin Liddell's Incredible Charge To The Front Ends With A Bang
With a lap and a half remaining in the 2 hour 45 minute race at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, UT, the GT class leading No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R was broadsided by Dirk Werner driving a Farnbacher-Loles Porsche. In an aggressive move that would have been seen as simple hard racing in an earlier season contest, the Porsche collided with the Pontiac resulting in tire blowouts on both cars. Instead of a 1-2 finish for the pair, they both fell to the sidelines as the rest of the field passed them by. In the end, the Porsche finished in sixth place and the Pontiac in seventh.
In the laps leading up to the collision, Robin Liddell, Werner, and Andy Lally, had been running almost as if connected together through every corner before Liddell finally found a way to get past Lally to take the lead. Liddell: "I did everything I could to keep it clean. I was very conscious of not touching Lally when we were battling. I knew I was faster then he was, but I wanted to make sure I made a clean pass -- I didn't want a penalty for contact."
Soon thereafter Werner too was able to pass Lally and in short order he and Liddell were making it a two car run to the end. The action on the track was electric as the two cars battled through every corner running over curbs and at times, side by side, with neither willing to back down in the slightest.
Liddell was somewhat hampered as he was battling severe tire wear in the closing laps and it was only his sheer talent and determination that allowed him to stay ahead of Werner. For the Stevenson Pontiac, the road to their fourth win of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series Presented by Crown Royal No. 16 season seemed to be open to them, if Liddell could just hang on.
Liddell: "I didn't expect (Werner) to be so aggressive, knowing that he was in a position in which he could clinch the title, but he kept pushing. At one point, I couldn't see him behind me, so I knew he was coming up beside me. I instinctively knew he was coming up on my right side, so I tried to give him enough room so we wouldn't touch, but all of a sudden I got hit real hard.
"We'd worked very hard to come back through the field so I was not about to give the position up easily but I guess he wanted to finish on a high so he made a move."
The resulting collision deflated not only the tires on both cars, effectively ending the race for both drivers and teams, it shredded the Stevenson team's last championship hopes as well.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: "In the end, we are obviously very disappointed with the result and we took another big hit in our race for the championship, but I don't think I could be any prouder of the way our drivers performed on the track, and I would not have asked Robin to drive those last five laps any differently. Unfortunately as a team, we did not have our best race. I missed a potential wave by, our pit stops were sloppy, and we gave the drivers a car that overworked the tires in the long run. Andrew and Robin made us look a lot better than we really were and Robin was as far down as 6th when we pitted for fuel at a track that is very difficult to make a pass on."
Liddell's co-driver, Andrew Davis, started the race and he noted that handling woes had befallen the team throughout the weekend. After several changes made to improve the car's handling and tire wear simply did not deliver, it was all the two professional drivers could do to keep the Pontiac moving forward.
Davis: "The car was very sensitive to our adjustments this weekend. It was hard to find that perfect balance. We struggled with both ends of the car early on in the race. We had some rear grip issues early on during my stint and at the start of Robin's stint as the car wanted to over steer. The car was really good for the first few laps but then it went into over steer so we made a change on Robin's first stop, adding a Gurney flap in the rear. That finally gave us some grip. In the end, we obviously had a car that was good enough to win."
This season, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac took home the win in the Virginia, Quebec and Alabama races, and they scored a second place at Mid-Ohio. Overall, after 11 races, they have finished in the top 10 in every race except the July race at Daytona, when an engine expired shortly after the race began. While they had hoped to build on the momentum of having finished second in the 2008 overall GT Team and Driver Championships, sometimes the realities of the racing game can drive you off course.
The Stevenson Team is in a tight battle to secure second place in the overall GT Team Championship with the No.07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac and No. 66 TRG Porsche. With one race left to secure the second spot, the Stevenson team is heading down to Miami, Florida with high expectations, a positive outlook, and even a bit of good humor.
Davis: "We have one race left with one more chance to get the Stevenson Pontiac up on the top step of the podium one last time. We feel very confident in what we have been doing as a team. We have raced hard and unfortunately sometimes you have results like we had here. All we can do now is focus on winning the next race."
Johnson: "With the up and down season we have had this year, it has all come back on us to the point where there are just three points separating second and fourth place in the championship, so we are going to take these next two weeks very seriously. We have no choice but to go out and beat the No. 07 Pontiac and No. 66 Porsche at Miami. If we don't, our team will be at the season ending Grand-Am banquet watching from the cheap seats!"
The final race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be held at Miami International Speedway on Saturday, October 10th.