Stevenson Pontiac Comes Second At The Glen, Just Seconds Behind This past weekend saw the start of the 60th anniversary year of sportscar racing at Watkins Glen with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 ...
Stevenson Pontiac Comes Second At The Glen, Just Seconds Behind
This past weekend saw the start of the 60th anniversary year of sportscar racing at Watkins Glen with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen race, held on Saturday, June 7th. In a thrilling endurance contest carried out in 93 plus degree heat and high humidity, the #57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, finished second in class to the No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX8 driven by pole winner Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi. After six hours of hard, hot racing, the gap from 1st to 2nd was just under six seconds.
In the closing laps it looked as though Liddell might be able to close on the Mazda, but he was himself being chased hard by the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards. The No. 69 Mazda kept the lead in the end with the Stevenson car passing the finish line a few seconds later with the third place Banner Pontiac trailing a short distance behind.
"We sadly didn't have anything for the 69 car," Liddell said. "I had some good battles with a lot of cars today. I had a good run with Edwards at the end of the race, but didn't have the car to get by the winner. "
The Sahlen's Six Hours marked the first time the Pontiac GXP.Rs carried a 100 pound 'competition adjustment' invoked by Grand-Am in response to the Pontiacs having taken five of six Rolex Series GT wins this season. The weight balance front to rear also had to be adjusted to a 51% front / 49% rear state. This new sanction meant the teams running the Pontiac GXP.R had to work to find ways to maximize the potential of what Liddell feels is the best car in the GT class. He made these comments in the days leading up to the race.
"At the end of the day, the Pontiac GXP.R as built by GM Racing and Pratt & Miller is fundamentally the best racecar in the field and so in one respect it is always going to be penalized in order that the other cars can compete. The challenge for Grand-Am is not overdoing that process so that they handicap a good team package and hand an unfair advantage to a lesser team package. The penalties will clearly slow the car down, of that there is no doubt. How much they slow it down and how it affects the balance and handling of the car remains to be seen."
Liddell noted that while the finish was a good one, the team had been leading the class earlier but suffered an immediate drop in the standings when contact occurred with another car. "The rear tires blistered at the beginning for Andrew so that cost us time and ultimately we lost a lap. Under caution we got a wave by past the safety car which got us back on the lead lap and two hours into the race, we were in the lead. But then a DP [Daytona Prototype] car made contact with the left rear of my Pontiac and spun me around losing us a number of places."
The slight set back was overcome with a stirring drive by the talented -- and very thirsty - Scotsman, resulting in a strong finish at the end.
Liddell: "We had to deal with the weight penalty and change in weight percentage from rear to the front. As a result we are working the rears a lot harder. But we are happy with second. We just look for solid results. I thought our last race at Lime Rock was tough when we had to come from the back to finish third but this was even harder -- especially as my drinks bottle was not working for the last two hours. Two podiums in a row is good for us and solidifies what we are doing as a team."
Many of the teams have stayed at the Glen for Monday's test day. The Pontiac teams will especially be focused on balancing their cars under the new sanctions.
Liddell: "The Pontiacs have all had the same problem with blistering. Part of the testing will be an attempt to establish whether we can limit that issue going forward. Pirelli will be looking at aspects of what they are doing to see if they can limit that as well. In essence what Grand-Am has done in penalizing us with weight, in trying to help the competitors, caused us a problem now as well. And the change in balance is something people have tended to overlook. We will be working hard to try and balance everything to reduce our tire wear, which has increased significantly since our last race (before the sanctions)."
The Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen was the seventh race of the Rolex Series 2008 season for the GT class. It marked the fifth time the #57 Stevenson Motorsports -- BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R finished in the top ten.
Andrew Davis feels the Stevenson Team has demonstrated a commitment to high performance that should carry over into the next race and beyond.
Davis: "I think the team has performed great. We came here not knowing what to expect with the changes in the weight and balance and we worked hard together to make changes as quickly as we could, given the short amount of track time. Everybody on this team did a great job adapting to the changes and they made this car one of the quickest cars out there on the track in a relatively short time. I am really proud of the guys. Everyone worked really hard through the entire weekend and we were able to make progress rather quickly."
The strong result at the Glen, combined with the third place finish of the driver's championship leading duo of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, and the eighth place finish of Nick Ham and Sylvan Tremblay in the No. 70 Mazda, has Stevenson teammates Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis moving up into third place in the driver's championship. The Stevenson Team remains in fourth place in the overall Team Championship standings, just two points out of third.