The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, had a shot at catching a place on the podium at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen - the sixth race of the 2010...
The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / BryanMark Financial Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, had a shot at catching a place on the podium at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen - the sixth race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 series - when a puncture in a tire, that came with just a few minutes left in the race, forced Liddell to hobble around the circuit dropping him down five places as the rest of the field flew by to catch first sight of the checkered flag.
The No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / BryanMark Financial / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R., driven by Gunter Schaldach and Ronnie Bremer managed to come home one position ahead of their sister car after Liddell had to nurse his three-wheeled racer all the way around the circuit.
The weather included both sunshine and rain, with the wet conditions aiding the run of the No. 57 car for a short period. But it wasn't quite wet enough long enough to prevent tire wear from becoming an issue for the heavy Chevys.
Team Manager Mike Johnson: "Man, what an emotional roller coaster. We led at the beginning with the No. 57 and were actually running quicker than the DP cars in the light rain, but we knew tires were always going to be the downfall, and they were. As the biggest, heaviest car in the field, we have always had tire blistering problems at Watkins Glen, and this year was no different. We could get around 10 laps before the drivers complained and then we always had to pit earlier than our competitors. We could conserve tires if we ran two seconds off the pace, but that was not effective either. "
Conservation efforts may work to reduce waste and that is a good thing for the environment, but conserving speed is never good for a racer.
Johnson: "Both cars eventually went a lap down, but with some great driving by Robin and a lucky yellow, we got him back on the lead lap and were all set for the cooler temps. Robin ran the pace of the leaders even with blistered tires, and was set for a 4th place finish which would have been as good as a win for us, until the last lap when the tire failed. "
Davis: "After the disappointing result at Lime Rock last week, we were really focused on getting the most out of the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R at Watkins Glen. I was really pleased with the initial balance of the car in the practice sessions, but it was quickly apparent that we would not be able to run competitive lap times with the front running Mazdas and Porsches. Obviously, we have struggled to keep up all season long in regards to pace, but the extreme tire issues that we faced during this event really changed the complexity of the race.
"The Six Hours of the Glen is normally a race that sees varying weather conditions, and this year was no different. The rain had come and gone by the time I got in the car to drive a double stint. The conditions in the cockpit were very hot, but I was quite pleased with the performance of the car during my first stint. I was able to keep a strong pace without blistering the rear tires. Approaching my second stint in a similar manner, I expected to see the same performance and tire wear. However, I quickly realized that my left rear was not in very good shape, so I had to back the pace off to keep from experiencing a failure."
Robin Liddell was in the No. 57 car when the tire let go with so little time remaining. He recounts the weekend as follows:
"This was obviously another disappointing weekend in what were very difficult circumstances, given the continued advantage of the Mazdas and Porsches and the problems we were suffering with excessive tire wear and blistering throughout the weekend.
"After qualifying - when I ran only a few hard laps - the tires had blistered quite badly and so we realized we had to drive slowly in the race to try and save the tires for a stint of fuel. Despite this we were still able to lead the race thanks to the rainfall which only lasted for a short time but made the track very slippery and allowed me to get ahead and get a sizeable advantage over the competition. When it dried out the Porsches and Mazdas caught us very quickly and there was not much we could do except drive around and try to hang on.
"With two hours to go I had to start pushing hard to make up the time lost by the penalties we got in the pits, and fortunately we got the lap back and were able to close in on the lead group. For the last hour, with the ambient and track temperatures dropping rapidly, we opted to go for a new set of tires to try and maximize performance, and whilst we battled very hard with some of the leading cars for the last part of the race, unfortunately, with two laps to go and while running in 4th place the left rear tire failed going into turn one and we had to crawl all the way back to the pits. We finished with some bodywork damage and by crossing the finish line on pit road."
Davis: "The race was grueling, and the competition was fierce. So, we were excited to have the VinSolutions BryanMark Financial Camaro in position for a solid top five finish despite all the obstacles that we had to overcome. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear Robin on the radio with just minutes remaining informing us of the puncture."
Johnson: "The No. 97 had a solid run as well, but they just could not compete with blistered rubber. Grand-Am says we will be allowed some updates for the next race (Mid-Ohio), so I guess we'll see,"
The next race on the GRAND-Am Rolex Series schedule will be the EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank, on the Mid-Ohio Circuit, in Lexington, Ohio on Saturday, June 19th.