VIR: Stevenson Motorsports race report

Stevenson Camaro Pair Finish 7th and 10th At VIR Grand-Am Rolex GT The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, finished in seventh place in the fourth...

Stevenson Camaro Pair Finish 7th and 10th At VIR Grand-Am Rolex GT

The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, finished in seventh place in the fourth race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. Season-long driver Gunter Schaldach was joined by veteran racer Spencer Pumpelly -replacing Schaldach's regular co-driver Jan Magnussen for this one race - to finish in 10th place in the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / BryanMark Financial / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R. Magnussen was unable to attend this event due to another commitment in Denmark.

The rolling countryside through which Virginia International Raceway winds has provided very pleasant environment indeed for the Stevenson team the last two years. They enjoyed back to back wins here with the Pontiac GXP.R and it was hoped the new Chevrolet Camaros would give them a three-peat.

"Obviously, the last two seasons have provided Stevenson Motorsports with exciting victories at Virginia International Raceway." Andrew Davis noted. "We were very anxious to get back to our 'home track' for a shot at three in a row. Despite struggling for pace in the last several events, we entered the event with the confidence that we could return to the podium.

Davis continued, "The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, rolled off the trailer in good form when we arrived at VIR. We were able to make good progress with the set-up in the short amount of time given during the practice sessions. So, I was confident that we had a solid car as we headed into qualifying. I was very happy with my quick lap during the qualifying session, for I really felt like I got the most out of the car. However, we still fell short of the pole position by quite a margin."

Davis qualified the car in fourth place on the grid, 1.2 seconds behind the pole-sitting Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda. It was not much of a surprise to see a Mazda up front as, coming into this round of the series, the Mazda's and Corvettes have enjoyed a speed advantage over the Camaro and Porsche cars in the GT class. GRAND-AM added weight to both the Mazda and the Corvette chassis in an attempt to try and bring the field closer together but the answer to the problem seems to be 'weightier' than first believed.

Davis relates his time at the wheel and the reality that what GRAND-AM has set out to do regarding closer competition still needs to be tweaked further if the desired result is to be achieved.. "During the race, the balance of the car felt better than it had all season." Davis noted, "The Pirelli tires performed well throughout my stint, but it was not possible to keep pace with the lead Mazda's. Despite missing a wave-by during the last caution, we were able to position ourselves to score another top four finish in the closing laps. Unfortunately for us, the late race cautions made Robin a "sitting duck" on the long back straight where there is no match for straight line speed."

Liddell had an extremely difficult time getting to VIR from Europe because of the ash clouds that shut down air traffic in and out of that region. He traveled nearly 6,000 miles with over 17 hours driving time from England to Spain before he boarded a flight to the US. He may have felt that his trip around the 3.27 mile VIR circuit took even longer - or seemed to anyway - as he found he was always chasing but never catching the Mazda's or Porsches. At least he got to the US. He never got to the podium.

"Porsche has done a really good job of getting the right breaks, especially the 3.8 liter engine which allows them to drive right by on the straights." Liddell noted. "The Mazda is still very fast and judging from the qualifying times the weight added by GRAND-AM made next to no difference to their performance."

"The problem is we can not race with anyone at the moment." Liddell continued. "I was unable to challenge a single car ahead of me all day. For the last three races I have just been defending my position. We are simply waiting for everyone else to make mistakes. I don't see the challenge or spectacle in watching all of your competition simply drive away on the straights. For example, on the last lap the No. 44 Porsche was about three car lengths behind me coming onto the back straight and he was three car lengths ahead by the end of the back straight; there was no way I could keep him behind. I tried to retake the position but couldn't quite make the right hander and ran wide onto the grass. My frustration boiled over but unfortunately I don't feel that we can race fairly right now."

The No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / BryanMark Financial / VinSolutions 2010 Chevrolet Camaro GT.R could only manage a 10th place finish. In a field of 19 GT cars, one might still consider this to be an accomplishment based on competitive speed, but a closer look at the final results adds a degree of clarity. Of the nine cars that finished behind the No 97 car, only one finished on the lead lap. The rest experienced varying degrees of difficulty putting them anywhere from one lap off the pace to as many as 37 laps down.

Spencer Pumpelly enjoyed his one-time ride with the Stevenson team and the experience of moving from his regular mount, a Porsche, into the American Chevrolet Camaro. "I had a great time being part of the Stevenson team." Pumpelly commented. "Gunter did a great job in the opening stint and the car was easy to drive. Coming from a Porsche it was a big transition but certainly a lot of fun."

Team Manager Mike Johnson is pleased with his team's performance, but his feeling is simply that, without some appropriate competition adjustments to the lighter Mazda cars even the Stevenson team's best efforts will never be enough to overcome the on-track advantage the Japanese make enjoys.

"I am very happy with our team right now," Johnson said, "but we just don't seem to have the race car to compete with the others. While we can put down the occasional fast lap, we are too slow on the straights to do anything about it and the other cars are so fast that we can't gap them in the twisty sections. Right now our entire race plan is to just take whatever the other cars leave for us to pick up and right now there isn't much. We'll still up in the points, but we don't have any other tricks up our sleeve. We missed a wave by at the end of the race, but with the restarts, it didn't seem to matter anyway. We just can't pass."

-source: stevenson motorsports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Robin Liddell , Spencer Pumpelly , Andrew Davis , Mike Johnson
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , Racers Edge Motorsports