The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, had muscled its way up to fourth place at Lime Rock Park when a hard charging Daytona Prototype - itself in a...
The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, had muscled its way up to fourth place at Lime Rock Park when a hard charging Daytona Prototype - itself in a race for the lead in its class - ran into the car at speed forcing it off the racing surface and into the barriers. The resulting damage to the Stevenson car took it out of the race
In the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / BryanMark Financial / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R., season-long driver Gunter Schaldach was joined by Champ Car racer Ronnie Bremer -replacing Schaldach's regular co-driver Jan Magnussen. (Bremer will also team with Schaldach for the Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio rounds.) They managed to bring home a 6th place finish in a race hotly contested on a searing hot race track.
Race day was Monday, Memorial Day, and it was hot in the Connecticut Berkshires. Lime Rock Park, celebrating 53 years nestled in a valley amongst the mountains, hosted an enormous crowd of race fans, most of who knew to bring umbrellas and sun block lotion to keep them from baking in the hot sun.
While the thousands of fans sitting on the hills both inside and outside of the circuit tried to keep cool, there was no cooling a race track that measured temperatures of 115 degrees plus. There was also to be no cooling down the pace of the Mazdas as the top five of six qualifying positions were taken by that marque. The heat continued for the fans and the competition as the Mazdas went on to finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the race. How much of an advantage do the Mazdas currently enjoy in this series? The race winning car was a brand new chassis and it had never even been on the track before this race.
Schaldach: "I don't believe at this point there is anything to say about the performance of the Mazda. It is obvious to anyone watching the race that the Mazda has an absurd advantage. The drivers in this series are all extremely experienced and talented. The way things stand right now is not a fair representation of the performance of each brand or driver."
Liddell: "It was a disappointing day to say the least. Obviously going into Lime Rock we were confident for a good result what with the upgrades to the car since VIR. At the same time it was a bit optimistic to hope for too much given the very limited track time in which to understand the effect those upgrades had upon the car. With the track being resurfaced, I would say our old Lime Rock advantage has gone, and the speed of the Mazdas once again proved that we are not balanced in terms of performance right now. Having said that, I was able to legitimately run in the top four and had it not been for the stupid move by the Daytona Prototype - which effectively took us out of the race, a move for which he received a penalty for avoidable contact - I think we would have been in the top five."
That is top five as in one place behind the speedy Mazdas.
Davis: "We seemed to struggle to find the pace from the very beginning of the day in the Stevenson Motorsports VinSolutions Camaro GT.R. The car was just at the Pratt & Miller factory for some updates last week, so we came into the event with an optimistic view of closing the gap to the championship leaders. Unfortunately, we were forced to watch that margin grow larger thanks to another driver's impatience.
"I pushed the car as hard as possible during qualifying, and I was able to find quite a bit of time from the previous practice session. However, it simply wasn't enough to get our No. 57 Camaro any better than mid pack. Overtaking is very difficult at Lime Rock, so I knew that I would have to rely on other's mistakes to gain positions. It was a very physical race, and I found myself driving through the grass several times to avoid accidents. Although I had several instances of contact with the aggressive DP traffic, I was lucky enough to survive my stint relatively unscathed."
"We are still third in the championship with more than half of the season remaining. Stevenson Motorsports has proven time and again that we will never give up!"
Team Manager Mike Johnson: "We are obviously pretty disappointed with the result. Not so much for the accident, but more for the lack of pace we have seen with the Camaro since Daytona. Pirelli developed a new tire for all the cars this year and they have given the Mazda a distinct advantage. We have been working flat out as a team to build, test and develop new components, but they seem to offer no benefit and we just continue to have the speed fall off as the tires go away. I think Grand-Am is going to be in serious trouble if they don't do something soon to help all the V-8 cars and the Porsche get competitive again or it will just turn into a Mazda shootout.
"Saying all that, I am very happy for Gunter and the No. 97 team for their best result ever this season. Ronnie Bremer will be with the team for the next few races and he did great in his debut."
Gunter Schaldach describes his hot time in the driver's seat: "I learned quickly at Barber how important it is to conserve the tires and not push too hard at the beginning of the race. I was very proud of myself for pacing myself and having plenty of tire left at the end of my stint. I did go off track when the No. 94 Turner BMW got spun around. The two cars in front of me avoided contact. By the time I got there he was rolling back and with such a narrow track the only thing I could do was to go into the grass to avoid contact.
"DP traffic played a huge roll in my stint. The first time the DP's came by I thought I picked a good spot to let them go but I soon realized all the GT cars were pulling away through traffic. The next time the DP pack came by I watched Andrew Davis in the sister car #57 keep the DP cars from passing until after the chicane and it seemed to work well. I followed his example and was able to catch up quickly.
"I was also very pleased with my new co-driver Ronnie Bremer who stepped in for Jan Magnussen. Jan could not join us due to having kidney stones. Ronnie got up to speed quickly and was able to bring the No. 97home to a 6th place finish, which was the highest finishing position for the No. 97 this year.
Once again I was very pleased with my crew as well as they performed flawlessly. We had zero mistakes in the pits and the car performed as expected."
The next race on the GRAND-Am Rolex Series will be the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, at Watkins Glen International on June 6th.