Montreal: Stevenson Motorsports race report

Stevenson Pontiac Slides Into Third Win Of 2009 Season Despite slippery track conditions No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R takes commanding win Despite the cloudy and on again-off again wet conditions in Montreal, the site of the Montreal 200 on the Circuit...

Stevenson Pontiac Slides Into Third Win Of 2009 Season
Despite slippery track conditions No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R takes commanding win

Despite the cloudy and on again-off again wet conditions in Montreal, the site of the Montreal 200 on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Stevenson team made their own brand of sunshine with their third race win of the season. This was the 11th race of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16,

Andrew Davis started the race in 5th position and he kept the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R in the front running pack until turning the car over to Robin Liddell.

Davis: "It began to rain while we were sitting on the grid, leaving me with the responsibility of choosing which tire selection would be best. Mike was confident that the weather would pass, and I knew that if I could just hold on for the first few laps that a dry line would form. At the drop of the green flag, it was extremely difficult just trying to keep the car on the track with slick tires on the wet surface. Luckily, our tire decision was the correct one because the track did begin to dry bringing the advantage back to the cars that opted against switching to rain tires."

The track went from wet to dry to wet again, making the choice of tires a difficult one for all the teams. In the end, despite having on slick tires when the rains resumed late in the race, Liddell used every bit of his driving skills to keep the car on the slippery track and well ahead of the second place car at the end.

Liddell: "The conditions were amongst the hardest I have ever driven in", reflected Robin. "The fact that we stayed on 'slicks' was the right call as the showers were off and on but it made the driving conditions treacherous and we were on a knife edge each lap for much of the race."

Team Manager Mike Johnson gambled that, with so many other cars pitting to change to wet tires, a driver of Liddell's caliber could move up to the front if he stayed out on the slicks. His gamble paid off, thanks to Liddell's incredible driving skills on a track that must have felt like driving on ice. Indeed, in the closing laps Liddell found himself sliding through and around corners far too often for comfort.

Liddell: "I had a couple of big moments when the car got completely out of shape but fortunately I held on and got the win. My thanks go to the team for a super job as always and for giving me a car to get the job done today."

Davis complemented his co-driver when he said, ""As difficult as the opening stint was, I had an easy time of it compared to Robin. He was forced to adapt to changing conditions throughout his entire stint. He really put in a stellar performance at the end of the race keeping the car up front in the most treacherous conditions."

Team Manager Mike Johnson: "We always seem to pull out some miraculous finishes in Montreal and just like last year, we knew we had a good car, but not a very fast one, so our hopes were not that high."

But those hopes took flight with Liddell's stirring command of the treacherous conditions and thus a weekend that seemed bleak at the start became a time of shining accomplishment.

Johnson relates the story of the events leading up to the team's third win.

"The weekend started horribly as we had to change our motor after a handful of laps causing us to miss most of the practice sessions. We were only able to get on track for the last practice session before qualifying. Andrew's qualifying run was pretty good, but the Porsches and Mazdas definitely had some lap time on us."

Davis added these comments: "Since track time is at a premium during this event, it certainly put us on our back foot in terms of finding the optimal balance of the car. However, the crew was able to make the change in the shortest time possible, giving us a little time to work on set-up before qualifying."

Johnson continues his account: "Before the start of the race, a bunch of teams dove in for wets, but we felt it wasn't wet enough for rain tires and our radar showed the rains would blow through rather quickly. Andrew lost time to the driver's on rain tires, but as they all had to pit shortly after, we soon moved back to the front.

"Our first stop was AMAZING! At the 40 minute mark we put on four tires, added fuel and made a driver change while most of the competition had problems getting that all done. This quick work gave us a great gap.

"At the yellow flag, we pitted again for four tires and fuel but that decision dropped us back to third when some of the other GT cars took no tires. On top of that Robin spun a few laps later but I was amazed how fast he was able to drive up to the front again. What really amazed me was how he handled what came next.

"With 30 minutes to go, it began raining again, and once again, we chose to stay on slicks while most teams came in for wets. When the track dried back up again we were able to put some distance on the field which was just what we needed, because the rain came back yet again and this time it was much worse then we had seen all day.

"Now the cars on rain tires were catching us, but we had over a minute on them and they simply ran out of time."

Johnson knew he had two of the best in Davis and Liddell and this race in the rain proved once again how enjoyable it is for him to watch them drive against whatever the odds.

"Watching Robin drive in those conditions was truly a pleasure and our team was fantastic as usual. In a weird sort of way, we joked about probably winning the race since we always seem to do well with adversity. Under pressure is when this team really shines."

Davis: "It feels great to successfully defend our victory from last season, and I can't express how proud I am of the team for refusing to give up in the face of adversity. This was a very deserving victory for the entire Stevenson Motorsports organization."

Team owner John Stevenson: "The whole team did a superb job with the treacherous conditions. Robin and Andrew's driving were exemplary. As usual, Mike Johnson's strategy was "on the money" and the crew's pit stop performances were flawless. It all came together for us with our first place finish in what was the most tedious two and a half hours of racing that we have spent this season. Many thanks to this entire organization for making it all happen again!"

The next race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be the 11th of the season with the series moving to Tooele, Utah at Miller Motorsports Park. There is just one more race after Miller to wrap up the 2009 season.

-credit: sm

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