Daytona 24: Stevenson Motorsports race report

New Stevenson Pontiac GXP-R Goes Around The Clock At The Rolex 24 Brand New Racecar Demonstrates Stamina And Performance In First Race Team owner John Stevenson is convinced he made the right choice of racecar when he opted to run a brand new ...

New Stevenson Pontiac GXP-R Goes Around The Clock At The Rolex 24
Brand New Racecar Demonstrates Stamina And Performance In First Race

Team owner John Stevenson is convinced he made the right choice of racecar when he opted to run a brand new Pontiac GXP-R -- built by Pratt & Miller Engineering -- in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. And in its first ever run against competition - in one of the most grueling and demanding races on the planet, the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona -- the #57 Pontiac GXP-R, sponsored by the BryanMark Financial Group, showed it has the stamina, handling and overall performance needed to go the distance this season.

"I knew the Pontiac would be a strong racecar for this series and I knew Pratt & Miller would build us a car capable of winning against the Porsches and Mazdas we race. Having our new car go the distance in the Rolex 24, and running strong the whole way, just confirms for me that I have made the right choice for this season. My driver lineup and the whole team deserve to be recognized for the effort they put forth this weekend. I couldn't be prouder of how well we performed as a team in this demanding race and I am very optimistic about this season!"

Under the direction of Team Manager Mike Johnson, the team managed to place 19th overall in a combined field of 66 cars in both the Daytona Prototypes and GT classes, and 9th in their class, ahead of 32 other GT cars. They made it through to see the checkered flag when many others had retired through mechanical problems or on-course incidents. The new Pontiac was bullet proof and going strong until it was hit by a Daytona Prototype, almost certainly robbing it of a podium placing.

Team Manager Mike Johnson was disappointed with the final results, but overwhelmed by the performance of the car until fate intervened.

"The biggest highlight for me is that when that car crossed the finish line it was perfect, except for the damage caused by being hit by another car. Other than the parts damaged in the contact, not a single bolt had come loose. Not a single part failure. The gearbox and engine were like brand new. The temperatures were within five degrees of where we started the race. There was not a drop of oil on the back of the car.

"The way you run a 24 hour race, especially at Daytona, is you race at the beginning, you survive the night and you survive the morning, and then you just try to bring home whatever you have left for the last six hours. For us, we would not have had to just survive the last six hours. Without the accident, we could have run the last six hours at qualifying speeds and run another 24 hours, but with the accident we could not get the car back to 100% since the RR upright was damaged and leaking grease at an accelerated rate. Before that, the car was flawless and the crew did that great of a job getting the car ready for this race. "

The beautiful new racecar had performed brilliantly around the clock until an 18th hour move by an aggressive DP driver who collided with the #57 Pontiac as they were entering the horseshoe curve. The impact spun the car -- with Gunnar Jeanette aboard -- and damaged the suspension control arms. Jeanette was able to get the car back to the garage area for repairs and then the red, white and blue racecar with the flying eagle graphics returned to the race. The car was running in a solid fourth place in the race and the time lost to the incident -- and the subsequent pit stops required to fully assess the damage to the cars handling - eventually dropped them down to 9th place in the end.

Randy Pobst and Gunnar Jeanette joined the Stevenson Team for this race, partnering with team regular drivers Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell. Pobst had this comment about the car's performance: "We were having a really great run until the crash. I had an enjoyable session after the incident even though the car was still bent. I actually ran my fastest lap after the crash. The crew did a very good job of repairing the car and getting us back out there"

Andrew Davis commented on what the collision with the DP meant in terms of an overall finish.

"We were hit pretty badly. When I got out of the car at 6:30 AM, we were in fourth place about three laps up on the fifth place car and about a lap back of second and third. We thought we had a strong top five car and with a little luck we thought we could sneak up onto the podium. The guys fought so hard to get the repairs done quickly. We really only lost a few laps to the initial repairs but we had to come back in to the pits a second time. In the end, the handling was definitely compromised. The last four hours of the race were tricky. We could no longer push the car hard because the damage was pretty severe.

"Once we realized we didn't have time to get the car 100% back to where it was we just kept running it as prudently as possible and we still wound up with a strong top ten finish. It was a good way to start the year except that, before the hit we felt we had a real shot at getting on the podium."

After the outstanding performance of the all new chassis, Davis can't help but be enthused about the season to come. "Everybody is pretty tired and worn out from this weekend but we are really proud of what we accomplished our first time out with the Pontiac. The potential of this car and this team is tremendous. Everyone worked well together and I am really excited about our potential for this season. We got some points to start the season but I really think it won't take long for Robin and I to get the Stevenson Pontiac GXP-R up to the front and in contention for championship points. I am really proud of this team!"

Johnson agrees.

"We are happy with our first run. We learned a lot about the car, and the drivers now feel confident about what they can do with the car. We knew we weren't going to be the strongest at Daytona anyway, and probably won't be at Homestead either (speedway circuits), but when we get to VIR and Mexico we should really have it all together. The drivers were saying they couldn't wait to get the car to a challenging road course, like Mid-Ohio."

The car is headed back to the Jacksonville, North Carolina Stevenson Motorsports shop for a complete strip down and repairs. The team will have the car ready in time for the February test days on the 25th and 26th at Miami-Homestead.

Johnson: "We will use the Miami test days to try out a few different brake packages and try to find what the drivers want. We met our first goal at Daytona, which was to have a bullet proof car for 24 hours, but we never had outright speed. Now that we have achieved our first goal our second goal is to concentrate on our two drivers and let's go find out where the rest of the speed is."

-credit: sm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Robin Liddell , Randy Pobst , Andrew Davis , Mike Johnson , John Stevenson
Teams Stevenson Motorsports