Virginia International Raceway
Stevenson Camaro GT.R Qualifies On Pole And Then The Rains Came
Magnussen sets the pace in qualifying
You could have filled many reservoirs with all the rain that fell on the VIR circuit during the Bosch Engineering 250 round of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season. It came down in buckets and dampened the spirits and the speed of all the cars in the race, not excepting the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R driven by Robin Liddell and Jan Magnussen.
After Magnussen took the pole in qualifying with a lap time of 1:53.727, the chances for a swift charge towards a checkered flag looked promising for the Stevenson team. On race day however, the skies opened up not to reveal the sun’s warming rays but instead to unleash a pounding deluge of water that left puddles suitable for stocking with fish everywhere on the grounds of this beautiful facility.
Lap after lap the cars swished, swam and slipped through the water that reigned from above and below. Wipers were swinging and windows were fogging and fans were cursing the need to watch the race from underneath an umbrella.
Team Manager Mike Johnson sums up this wet weekend in the Virginia countryside: “We seemed to find another new way to let one get away from us. It's been the theme of 2011.
“At the beginning of the race,” Johnson continued, “it was pouring outside, and Jan was unable to see anything through the fogged up windshield so we had to pit at the first yellow which came at lap one. The crew did a great job over the next few stops to address the problem and by the time we went green, we were back in the lead with Jan pulling away.
“At that point the track was drying and we knew slicks would be going on the car and we had a tough decision when a yellow came out mid-way through the race. Some of the teams stayed on wets; however I thought we would be in better shape for the long run if we came in for slicks and a driver change. At the time, it was the wrong decision, but the worst part was that Robin got stuck behind a few cars that covered his windshield with mud and he fell back.
“The slicks started to come back to us, and we were running quick laps, but at the back of the pack. Then one more yellow came which allowed us to top up for fuel and basically sealed our fate since we had no track position and the race was pretty much over. We had a fast car, and scored another pole, and the guys did a great job prepping the car, but neither of our drivers could see through the fog or the mud and we finished 7th.”
Robin Liddell agreed with Johnson’s review of what should have been a stellar weekend of racing but instead became a shower of disappointment.
... but neither of our drivers could see through the fog or the mud ...
“As Mike said, obviously the race started in very wet conditions, and within no time Jan could not see through the windscreen and lost a lot of time as a result. Fortunately, the race went to caution almost straight away so it did not hurt us too badly, and the guys were able to deal with the problems of fogging and broken windscreen wipers by coming in and out of the pits several times under yellow. When the 30 minute mark came under yellow, most GT cars pitted for a driver change whereas Jan stayed out, so he managed to get into the lead quite easily and get a good advantage."
"For me,” Liddell continued, “we just went to slicks that little bit too early. It is always a gamble in those sorts of conditions, the timing of which is critical to gain an advantage, but this time we just got it wrong."
"When I went out the track was very slippery indeed, but it was extremely difficult for me just to see where I was going as the screen was filthy and covered in mud from the first stint. I could not see the dry line as it started to appear on the track. I guess nobody noticed when the car was in the pits, and I was too busy trying to get my belts done up and reset the fuel before I set off. As a result, I found myself sometimes on the dry line and often on the damp, so I was losing quite a lot of time just trying to keep the car on the track on the wrong tires.
“At the next stop we fueled and took tires for the finish, took a tear-off from the windscreen and we then had reasonable pace in the dry, but we were in amongst slower cars with better straight line speed and unable to overtake as there was literally only one dry 'lane' around the track.
“Overall it was another disappointing weekend for the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro following our strong pace in practice and qualifying."
Moving on to Lime Rock Park for the next round, the Stevenson team will look to again go for the pole and be first to see the checkered flag wave over the No. 57 car.
The next race on the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 schedule will be on May 30th at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
-source: stevenson motorsports