Birmingham: Stevenson Motorsports race report

Stevenson Camaro Pair Finish 4th and 8th At Barber Grand-Am Rolex GT The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, finished in fourth place in the third...

Stevenson Camaro Pair Finish 4th and 8th At Barber Grand-Am Rolex GT

The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, finished in fourth place in the third race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. Drivers Gunter Schaldach and Jan Magnussen came in eighth place in the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / BryanMark Financial / VinSolutions 2010 Chevrolet Camaro GT.R.

Held at beautiful Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, the skies were blue and the temperatures much more pleasant than previous Grand-Am events run here in the middle of summer. Despite the nice weather, the oh-so-hot Mazdas were the cars that ran up front all day, a circumstance Robin Liddell knows all too well having spent three consecutive races watching them race ahead.

"The Mazda clearly has an advantage at all the tracks simply because it is a faster and lighter car." Liddell said after the race. "I believe it has always enjoyed an advantage but now there are more Mazdas so there is more competition from within and they are having to raise their game. It is a shame for the fans when they watch Mazda driving away at every track and a great car like the Camaro not being able to race because the Series apparently has an agenda. It's not just the Mazda actually, lets not forget the Corvette is 100 lbs lighter weight with the same chassis, engine and gearbox as the Camaro but a more aerodynamic body, work that one out if you can!"

"The competition was very fierce in the mid field in GT yesterday," he continued, "and we had some hard fought battles, but as for fighting for the lead there was no chance."

Liddell's co-driver, Andrew Davis, also vented some frustration over the apparent advantage the Mazda cars have enjoyed in the series after three of twelve races, or one quarter of the season completed. The climb to the top of the championship points scale seems to get a bit longer with each race.

"We accomplished our goal of running a mistake free race with the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R," said Davis, "but the end result failed to find us standing on top of the podium. Unfortunately, despite all the hard work and effort put forth by every member of the team we simply did not have the pace to keep up with the freight train of Mazdas. For the second event in a row, we have run our car to the ragged edge only to watch the Mazdas drive away in the distance. Although I am very pleased to come away from the event with significant points for the championship, I just feel that the final result is not a direct representation of how hard the Stevenson Motorsports crew has worked."

Gunter Schaldach, co-driver with Jan Magnussen in the No. 97 car started the race and he too made note of the Mazda's higher level of performance when he said, "The Mazda's passed whenever they wanted. It was insane to be passed like this so close to the beginning of the race. It was also obvious how the weight advantage plays out as the race goes on."

Team Manager Mike Johnson feels the time for GRAND-AM to review the disparity in performance between the Mazda entries and the rest of the GT field is now, before the season gets any deeper.

"I think this is the first weekend since we have been running the Pratt & Miller chassis that we just got beat. With the current rules package, we have nothing on the Mazdas and since we are 100 pounds heavier than the Corvettes and the BMW M6, we are pretty uncompetitive."

Johnson related the story of the race as follows:

"We ran the No. 57 and No. 97 on different strategies and in the end they both would have finished 4th and 5th without the penalty on the 97. The 97 got a penalty for coming down pit lane when the pits were closed. While the call at pit entrance is a judgment call by the official, Grand-Am has always notified the teams as they entered pit lane that the lane was closed. This time we were not told until a lap and a half later. Once again, Grand-Am apologized for the mistake post race, but it was too late."

The weekend started out with Davis demonstrating real determination to stay as close as possible to the Mazdas when he qualified the No. 57 Stevenson Camaro fourth on the grind. The top three spots went to a trio of Mazda RX8's, but Davis pressed ahead to qualify ahead of the remaining twelve GT cars.

Davis: ""Our qualifying session was cut short to only five minutes due to an accident during the Daytona Prototype session, so I knew there would only be two flying laps to make it happen. I worked to find a gap on the out lap, and then kept my head down until I saw the checkered flag a few minutes later. I was quite happy with the balance of the car, and we were able to run a lap that was over a second quicker than last year's time!"

Schaldach continues to find his stride as the newest member of the Stevenson team, along with his co-driver, Jan Magnussen, who joined the team in the No. 97 car at Homestead-Miami, the second race of the year.

Schaldach: "I am actually very happy with my personal progress this weekend. I am getting very comfortable with the car and getting used to it quickly. When I got back into the car at the end I came out of the pits in 8th position. Even with us serving one 20 sec penalty for Jan coming in under yellow, and one other drive through penalty, I was still able to keep the position I got the car in. I was then competing against the fastest guys at that point and I'm proud of myself for bringing it in 8th against such top competition. I am sure that once we get to a track that I already know things will improve tremendously."

Johnson would like to see an improvement in the fortunes of the Camaro GT.Rs as well, and he is hoping GRAND-AM will revisit the outcome of the first three races and take appropriate action to level the playing field.

Johnson: "We have won the last two years in a row at VIR (with the Pontiac GXP.R), but if Grand-Am doesn't allow us to race, this championship could be over before half way."

-source: stevenson motorsports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Robin Liddell , Andrew Davis , Mike Johnson , Gunter Schaldach
Teams Stevenson Motorsports