New Jersey Motorsports Park
Stevenson Team Finishes A Heated Fifth In New Jersey
Liddell and Bremer land a hard earned finish during one very hot race
The record setting heat index this past weekend that blanketed most of the east coast of the United States seemed to be centered right over the New Jersey Motorsports Park facility. In the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 race, the Stevenson Motorsports team sweated out a top five finish that came at the end of four very tiring summer days.
The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R driven by Robin Liddell and Ronnie Bremer was simply not fast enough to stay with the Mazda racers that managed to collect every podium position. A Mazda finished in first, second and third.
After living through back to back cloudless days with temperatures passing 100, Team Manager Mike Johnson saluted his crew and his drivers for bringing home a good finish to a bad weekend.
Johnson: “This was one of the toughest weekends for the team in a long time. We usually don't race on Sunday, so we were at the track for four days, and every day had a heat index of above 105. Working in that heat all day long meant the crew was exhausted by the end of each day. I applaud all the teams and drivers for surviving a very difficult weekend.”
Robin Liddell suggested that the lithe and low Mazdas had an advantage this weekend. It seems he was correct when you consider the final outcome of the race.
Liddell: “I had the feeling throughout the weekend that we would not be able to compete with the Mazdas again. The car was tricky to drive on this low grip track and rear grip was at a premium. We simply could not put the power down or carry any speed through the corners and so we watched the Mazdas drive away from us again. After three adjustments to the Camaro in as many races surely Grand Am needs to make a change to avoid a Mazda whitewash in the latter part of the season like last year?”
Filling in for Jan Magnussen this weekend, Ronnie Bremer noted that this was the hottest race he ever contested and the same thing might be said for the tires.
“This was one of the warmest races I have ever done!” Bremer said, “It seems the tires just couldn’t take the heat either and we had to fight very hard for our fifth place finish. Robin and I and the rest of the team did what we could but it was just not our day, even with good pit stops.”
Liddell too called out an issue with tires. In this case, it was with the number of them available to the team.
Liddell: “The obvious challenge for all the teams and drivers at the weekend was the unprecedented heat. But in reality our main issue was the track temperature and lack of grip with all the ballast in our car and a ride height above that of all our competitors. With the new tire allocation rule, we ran much of practice on worn tires.”
Competition adjustments are part of the GRAND-AM playbook but it remains an art form that rarely has been mastered by any sanctioning body that has tried to use it to level the playing field.
Johnson: “At the end of the day, with the weight of the Camaro being the heaviest in GT, we just couldn't dial the car around the heat and were no match for the Mazdas. We took a gamble on the last yellow trying for new tires and ended up finishing 5th, but it probably would have been the same result if we had stayed out.”
There are just three races remaining on the 2011 schedule. Even with the adjustments noted, Johnson is still convinced this car and this team can win again this year.
Johnson: “For the first seven races we lead laps in every race. Conversely, we have not led a lap in the last two races. While we have been putting together very good races, we have just not been fast enough for some reason and we need to figure out why. If we do figure it out, there's no reason we shouldn't win at least one more race this year.”
After New Jersey, Stevenson Motorsports remains in 10th place in the season’s GT Team Championship. Robin Liddell is in 15th place in the Drivers Championship and Chevrolet remains in 3rd place in the Manufacturers Championship.
By: stevenson motorsports