Stevenson Motorsports Wins Again at VIR At the second round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. at Virginia International Raceway, the No 57 Stevenson / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven ...
Stevenson Motorsports Wins Again at VIR
At the second round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. at Virginia International Raceway, the No 57 Stevenson / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell came across the line ahead of the rest of the GT field for the second straight year at VIR.
After putting the pressure on Banner Racing driver Paul Edwards for almost 2 hours, Robin Liddell finally forced last years Champion into a mistake and was able to drive by for the win, setting fast race lap on the way. For the first time in their short racing history, Stevenson Motorsports is now in a two way tie for the points lead with Banner Racing after scoring their 4th Series win.
Davis: "It was one of our best races. There were no big dramas or events that gave us extra luck, and we ran a mistake free race outside of a minor problem with the belts during the first driver change. We lost a little bit of time there but Robin got back the positions soon enough in a great battle with Paul Edwards. When Paul made a slight mistake Robin passed him and we held the lead from there.
Liddell: "The car was good but we didn't really have a car that in normal circumstances could have beaten the Banner car. With about 10 laps or so to go, Paul was being pressured by me coming down the hill into the last corner and he made a small mistake, dropping a wheel off. I was so close behind him that I could not help but hit him and push him off. I tried not to and I think the replay showed it was unavoidable.
"We then had a clean restart. I thought I might come under a bit of extreme pressure but that didn't happen and I was able to keep the lead through to the end."
It was unexpectedly hot at the Southern Virginia racing circuit, a marked contrast from the cold weather winter months that went by with no racing action in this series. Davis and Liddell found the driving chores to be a bit taxing due to a helmet and seat blower failure that prevented them from driving with cool helmets.
Liddell: "It was a hard race for everybody because it was hotter than expected. It was pretty tough really. I think the heat caught everybody out, I think people struggled a bit with it.
Davis: "The air flow into my helmet failed right at the start of the race. The blower in the car wasn't working so no cool air was coming in. It got pretty warm after a few laps. You don't realize it is there until it stops working and no cool air is coming into the helmet. It can take a toll and I know it bothered both Robin and I during the race."
Liddell: "You don't realize how important the driver cooling aids are until you have a problem. It was like breathing fire in there! But we just kept our heads down and pressed on, as we knew we might have a chance at the closing stages."
Johnson attributes Edwards miscue to the consequence of a heated cockpit as well.
"As for driver comfort, the team worked very hard last year in cooling the cockpit and we have three systems in place. In the event that one system fails, our drivers can still survive." Johnson said. "We won yesterday because the AC unit on the 07 car failed and since that is their only system, Paul couldn't run the times for two hours and eventually he made a mistake. In the No. 57 car, we have a helmet/seat blower system, and the drivers wear a cool suit, and we added a lot of cockpit cooling materials and have directed a lot of airflow around the headers. That was all done in the event that if something fails - like the helmet blower - our drivers can still tolerate the heat. The additional driver comfort makes it so that we can not reach the maximum 50% weight bias, but in the end, the additional cooling features allowed us to win the race."
The Stevenson team finished second in the 2008 Drivers and Team Championships behind the Banner Pontiac. With just less than 10 points separating the two teams and driver pairs at the end, the Stevenson team came into this season with a fervent desire to reverse the fortunes of the two leading Pontiac teams.
Liddell: "We did not know what to expect coming into this season, having chased after a championship last year and just coming up short. Last year we were pumped up and it is hard to better that. It is really nice to get a win under our belt this early in the new season.
"The Stevenson crew did an excellent job as always and it was great to be back on the top step of the podium, particularly as it is the team's 'home' race and we had so many supporters present."
Davis: "Our teams have the strongest Pontiacs in the field and we both use each other as a benchmark against the Porsches and Mazda's because of the differences in the rules. In qualifying we didn't have anything for the Mazda's but in the longer runs we were better. We basically keep trying to work harder than the Banner team including ongoing development work on the motor. It looks optimistic that we will be making some real progress in the motor department. And our engineering with Kyle Millay combined with Mike Johnson's race strategy just gave us the edge this time and had us running a little better race than them."
The next race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be held at New Jersey Motorsports Park on May 3rd.