Daytona II: Stevenson Motorsports race report

It was a podium finish at the Brumos Porsche 250, the eighth race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season, for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet...

It was a podium finish at the Brumos Porsche 250, the eighth race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season, for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell. Both drivers felt the top three finish was well earned and overdue.

Liddell: "it was great to get back on the podium with Stevenson Motorsports; it has been too long! "

Davis: "It's great to have the Stevenson Motorsports VonAllmen Capital/VinSolutions Camaro GT.R back on the podium where it belongs!"

The No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R., driven by Gunter Schaldach and Jan Magnussen, made contact with a tire when exiting their pit, costing them a penalty. They finished in 9th place for the second consecutive race.

Liddell: "A good strategy call put us in the lead with a twenty second lead after the first caution but at the next caution when we pitted we couldn't close the door and we left the pits in sixth. This also inadvertently caused the 97 car to run over one of our wheels and cost them a penalty."

Gunter Schaldach expressed some mixed emotions about this particular turn of events that may have kept him and Magnussen off the podium.

"This race had the widest range of emotions of this year so far." He said. "I brought the car in 5th, which was my best performance this year. I am still a little puzzled as to the enormous penalty that we received for hitting the tire of the No. 57 car. I originally thought that the penalty would go to the team who left the tire in the way. It was explained to me that if the tire is in the pit box then anyone hitting it is responsible for the contact. If that is not the case then I would love to suggest that after each pit stop we throw our tires into the pit lane so that every other car coming down the pit gets a 60 second penalty. I'm kidding, of course. I know the penalty essentially gave the No.57 the opportunity to get to the podium and for that I am happy for them. I am not so happy for the No. 97 team!

"The car felt great and I have no complaints about how the crew performed. Unfortunately we missed Ben Johnson (our engineer) who had to head off to a family emergency, but Chuck, who temporarily replaced him, did a great job with the car. Both Jan and I were very happy with the Camaro and felt we had a solid podium car."

Team Manager Mike Johnson explained the difficulties the team has struggled with up to and through this race. "Well, the good news is that we finally made it back to the podium and we were competitive with the Mazdas," Johnson said, "but unfortunately, we carried a few of the same mistakes from Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio to Daytona. For the second time in three races, we could not close the passenger door on the No. 57 during a cool box change, which left us scrambling to fix the latch and we lost valuable time. While the No. 57 was able to recover, the real loser was the No. 97 which hit the right rear tire of the No. 57 leaving the box resulting in a 60 second penalty, virtually taking them out of the race. We hoped for a yellow, but it never came, so the No. 97 guys had a very disappointing 9th.

"On top of that," Johnson continued, "we can't seem to get on top of the driver cooling situation in either car right now. We are on our third system with no success and we are melting our drivers in the cockpit. We tested a few things in Homestead on Monday which might give us some progress, but either way, we are running much higher cockpit temps in the Camaro than we did in the Pontiac."

It gets real hot in Florida in July and even hotter on the surface of black asphalt baking under the strong Florida sun. After the race, a very heated Liddell recalled what it was like to be inside a rapidly moving metal box, sitting right behind a very hot engine, and speeding along on tires that quickly succumbed to the hot racing surface.

Liddell: "It was a very tough race physically as we had problems again with the cooling system in the car but the balance of the car was good throughout the weekend. Driving for two hours in the heat with no cool suit was very hard and we had no drinks bottle for the last hour; it was one of my hardest races physically. We also had to be pretty cautious with regards to preserving (particularly) the rear tires as they would start to go off after only several laps of hard driving."

The Independence Day weekend started with an engine issue that found the Stevenson crew working feverishly to correct before the Daytona Speedway management closed the garages for the night. Davis explains, ""The result certainly did not come easy, for the event started with an engine problem during the first practice session that required the installation of a new one. That meant missing the qualifying session and thus starting in the back of the pack for the race. Despite the extreme heat, the Stevenson crew made quick work of the engine change before the garages closed down for the evening."

With the work successfully completed on time, with no opportunity to qualify the car for the race, Davis took up the last spot on the GT grid. From there he could only move forward and that is what he managed to do despite the heat and the tire wear issues.

"The next morning the car ran great during the morning warm-up," Davis said, "so we moved the focus to the race plan. I am not accustomed to starting in the back of the grid, but I was looking forward to the challenge of working my way up to the front. It certainly wasn't easy, but I was able to fight up to 4th place before the first caution period slowed my progress. I was determined to get up to the front, so I was pleased to see the yellow since it helped close the gap to the leaders. However, the timing of the caution fell into our strategy window for a driver change, so my work was done for the day."

Robin Liddell had now reported to the office and he immediately began his heated effort to keep the journey to the front well underway.

Liddell: "We had some good battles and towards the end I had to dig really deep to try and keep the No. 68 Mazda behind as I was pretty done-in physically by this stage. The Mazda actually made it ahead of me going into turn one on the outside but he chopped across a little and we made contact which allowed me to stay inside of him. We then drove side by side for several corners before I got back ahead. With two laps to go the No.69 Mazda out braked himself in the bus stop and that allowed me to pass him fort the final podium place. I certainly I didn't mind taking the good luck for a change! I think without the issues we had we would have been second but it was still a solid result."

Davis: "I really want to thank John and Susan Stevenson for their unwavering support of the team. It was very rewarding to represent Stevenson Motorsports on the podium once again, and the hope is that this result will breathe some new life into what has been a difficult season."

Johnson: "I think all four drivers did an excellent job at Daytona, which has historically been a bad track for us, so I am looking forward to New Jersey. We definitely have some work to do though if we want to fight for this championship with four races to go."

The next race on the GRAND-Am Rolex Series schedule will be held at New Jersey Motorsports Park on July 18th.

-source: stevenson motorsports

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