Stevenson Motorsports Splashes To Top Five Finish At New Jersey 'Clear vision' Porsches rule in the wet, but Stevenson car is top Pontiac finisher The rains came down hard at New Jersey Motorsports Park for the third round of the Grand-Am Rolex...
Stevenson Motorsports Splashes To Top Five Finish At New Jersey
'Clear vision' Porsches rule in the wet, but Stevenson car is top Pontiac finisher
The rains came down hard at New Jersey Motorsports Park for the third round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. Despite having to replace the front window due to an inability to see through it in the pouring rain, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, persevered and finished fifth in the GT class.
At the start the rains that had been threatening to pick up in intensity delivered mightily on that threat. Two Daytona Prototypes came together before the first turn -- due in full measure to the impossible conditions -- and that accident immediately sent the race into yellow. Once the debris had been cleared, the rain continued to pelt anything and everything in sight.
Andrew Davis qualified the No. 57 Pontiac second and right from the start he knew he and the rest of the Stevenson team were in for a difficult run.
"I was pleased to qualify the Stevenson Motorsports BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R on the front row for the race," said Davis, "especially since it looked like the race would be a wet one. The first lap seemed a bit compromised in terms of visibility out of the windscreen, but that is expected with the amount of rain coming down and the spray thrown out by the cars ahead. The race was quickly slowed by the first caution, and that's when I realized that we had a serious problem with both the outside and inside of the windscreen. Once the race was restarted, visibility was next to nothing! It became very difficult to stay on the track and out of the back of the cars ahead."
At one point, the race was run under yellow because of standing water on several sections of the circuit. This caution period ran for nearly a half hour. Eventually the rain lessened a bit but it was too late to prevent rooster-tail sprays off of each car which made it next to impossible for the car following to see ahead. In the end, Porsche race cars took the top four spots in the GT class.
The Pontiacs, and other front-engine cars like the Mazda's and Corvettes, were handicapped by an inability to defog the windows, making visibility extremely difficult. Team Manager Mike Johnson explains how the Pontiacs came to have difficulty keeping the interior of the front window clear, a problem the Porsche drivers did not have to contend with.
"In the Pontiac GXP.R's that we and the Banner team race, the base of the windshield actually hangs over the engine. There is a metal firewall that is underneath the base of the windshield that basically cooks the water that collects in the car. You can't really get a blower to it because of both the distance to the base of the windshield and the fact that if you put a hose down there the driver's would not be able to see. We did everything we possibly could, stopping often during the extended yellow period. We tried shampoo and soap and shaving cream and a rag on a stick. We even added two more blowers but we just weren't getting anywhere.
"There was so much water in the car, and the car gets so hot that the window just gets all covered in steam and there was nothing we could do to keep the glass clear for the drivers. We finally decided to put in a brand new windshield but while it looked like a great fix it really just gave Robin 15 minutes of clear driving before it too fogged right back up."
Liddell: "The Stevenson team did a great job by replacing the windscreen and getting me back out still on the lead lap. The new windscreen made a big difference allowing me to set some decent times but 10 laps or so later, the situation became very bad again while the wiper started to fail in the closing stages."
Davis: "The guys did an excellent job of getting the change done without losing a single lap, and that effort gave Robin a little better view of the treacherous conditions. We were able to fight our way back up to a top five finish in the end, so we certainly feel lucky to come away from the event with some good points."
The Stevenson Pontiac led the rest of the Pontiacs home with their fifth place finish. The other Pontiacs in the race finished as follows: No. 32 PR1 Motorsports -- 12th / No. 07 Banner Racing -- 15th / No. 21 MCM Racing (GTO.R) -- 17th.
Johnson had nothing but praise for his drivers and team after this turbulent regatta on the Millville plains.
"The guys were just driving off of taillights. They did an amazing job to stay error free and bring the car home. I think that we had a fantastic car in the wet and that we managed the vision issues, as a team, better than anybody else other than the Porsches. They have the engine in the back and their windshields sit in a more vertical position and I think there is a benefit to that. All in all we were happy to come out of there with a top five finish. We have been consistent this year and we have been fast. We were just .074 off the pole speed which was our closest to capturing a pole yet. Last year after three races we had a 9th, a 24th and a 1st and now we have a 6th, a 1st and a 5th so from a points and momentum standpoint we are feeling pretty good. We know we have a fast car and as a team we deal with adversity very well."
Liddell came away from this race with some consolation taken by the plight of the other Pontiac teams.
""The positive to take away from this is the fact that we bagged some points in what was a very tough race and we faired better than the 'works' Pontiac, which with similar problems as us, finished outside the top ten."
Johnson too feels there was a net gain after the rain pain.
"It was a disappointment for everyone and the fans as well, because in weather like this you don't get to see the true performance of the cars. I have to say though that the crowds for the last two races have been fantastic and I think Grand-Am is doing a great job of promoting the racing, and we love being in this series."
The fourth round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series will take place on Sunday, May 17th at MAZDA Raceway - Laguna Seca in California.