Snapped Belt Breaks Championship Momentum For Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R into gravel with minutes to go The fight for the season championship went off track for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R at ...
Snapped Belt Breaks Championship Momentum For Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R into gravel with minutes to go
The fight for the season championship went off track for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, the fifth race of the
2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. After starting third on the grid in the GT class, drivers Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell were charging hard when, late in the race, a belt snapped taking the power steering line with it. Fluids leaking onto the tires led to a spin into the gravel traps with just a few laps remaining in the race.
Coming into this weekend, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R had been struggling to finish in the top five. In the first four races they took one win (at VIR) and had to settle for two 6th and one 5th place finish in the other three races. At The Glen, the team once again found they had to deal with several niggling issues just to finish in the top ten.
Team Manager Mike Johnson reflects on the difficulties the Stevenson Motorsports team encountered this weekend. "Last year it seemed like we could do no wrong, and this year we can't do anything right. Right off the bat, we had a master cylinder lock up on us which caused us to miss a majority of the first practice and then we had to play catch up from there. We were able to give Robin a very fast car for qualifying and we felt pretty confident for the race, but we learned after about seven laps into the first stint that we were too stiff in the rear and blistered our first set of tires. From there the team worked extremely well together to get the tires to last."
Davis: "We certainly made it quite difficult on ourselves by starting out the weekend with mechanical problems. However, we were able to fight back and develop a strong car for qualifying. The team was optimistic heading into the race, and the initial laps only fueled our excitement as Robin took the lead and pulled away."
Liddell: "We missed a chunk of practice time due to a mechanical issue so we were making changes to the car during the first few pit-stops. After the first few stops, and with a few tweaks to the set-up, we had a car which was working quite well over a stint, although we just didn't seem to have the pace of the Porsches. Andrew and I split the first half of the race and I got back in at the three hour mark to do the last three hours."
Davis: "Probably the biggest disadvantage to losing the time in the first practice session was our inability to put together any long runs to evaluate tire wear. Early into the first stint, we realized that our BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R was seriously blistering both rear tires. The middle stints of the race were spent managing the rear tire wear, and continuing to make changes to the car at each pit stop."
Johnson "After making continuous tire changes during pit stops, and with a few hours remaining in the race, we worked our way back into the lead. Unfortunately, we dialed a bit too much push into the car to save tires, and fell back to fourth with just a few laps remaining, and then we received the final blow when we lost the belt that runs the power steering and water pump. Robin lost control of the car when the belt tore the power steering lines and oiled up the tires and we finished in the gravel."
Liddell: "I was in a comfortable fourth position but with two laps to go, the power steering/water pump belt broke. This resulted in power steering fluid spraying on to my tires and I spun off into the gravel trap. Unfortunately I couldn't drive out of the gravel, although to be honest we couldn't have finished anyway as the water temperature had rocketed up due to the water pump belt having come off. The engine was cooking."
The team's eighth place finish pushed them downwards in the point's race for the Team and Driver's Championships. After finishing second overall in 2008 - with just 9 points keeping them from winning both championship titles " this team knows they need to concentrate on collecting every possible point for the balance of the season. There are seven races remaining and Johnson sees each race to come as a new opportunity to begin again the process of garnering enough points to put the team back on course for the top spot.
Johnson: "Right now, all we can do is look forward and figure out how we are going to get ourselves out of this rut. We have had podium cars for every race this year, but have only been able to close the one race at VIR. It's going to be very important that we roll off the truck at Mid-Ohio fast and reliable and get back to our winning ways."
Liddell and Davis both agree with Johnson that a turn of fortunes is needed to invigorate the team's championship aspirations.
Liddell: "We actually led the race for 31 laps, the second highest number of any car. But we're not out of the title race by any stretch and we will keep on fighting! Thanks again to the guys for their hard work and to John and Susan Stevenson as well as our sponsor, Bryan Mark Financial."
Davis: "We have been going a bit backwards in the points standings since our win at VIR, and we realize that we have to return to proper form in order to stay in contention for this championship. Our focus for the remainder of the season is to minimize mistakes, and focus on getting Stevenson Motorsports back into victory lane."
Team owner John Stevenson has not lost faith in his team to overcome the deficit of good fortune they have experienced thus far this season. He is convinced his team will be spraying champagne from the podium once again.
Stevenson: "Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis both drove a flawless race. Mike Johnson's race strategy was dead on the money but multiple mechanical failures throughout the weekend lead us to a dismal eighth place finish. We have lost our luster due to these mechanical failures. However, I, as well as the entire team, are determined and committed to address our mechanical issues and return to Mid-Ohio in our traditional full force position. We will back on the podium."
The next race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 21st.