Mid-Ohio: Stevenson Motorsports race report

No. 57 Stevenson Camaro Puts Team In Third In Championship Standings No. 97 Stevenson Camaro suffers damage losing a lap to repairs With a fifth place finish at the Mid-Ohio round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal ...

Mid-Ohio: Stevenson Motorsports race report

No. 57 Stevenson Camaro Puts Team In Third In Championship Standings
No. 97 Stevenson Camaro suffers damage losing a lap to repairs

With a fifth place finish at the Mid-Ohio round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, moved the Stevenson team into third place in the GT Team points standings. Davis and Liddell remain tied for the fourth spot in the Driver's Championship. While a win is overdue for the pair, the signs are there that a third podium placing should be in their future.

The No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports / Lala Motorsports / VonAllmen Capital Partners / Chevrolet Camaro GT.R., driven by Gunter Schaldach and Ronnie Bremer, found itself proving the fundamentals of physics - two race cars can not occupy the same piece of race track at the exact same time - to the detriment of the car's front splitter and their chances of a strong run.

Team Manager Mike Johnson was pleased with a recent GRAND-AM Rules change but he thinks the benefit will be greatest at a high speed circuit like Daytona, the next stop on the 2010 calendar.

Johnson: "Grand-Am took 130 pounds off our car for the race at Mid-Ohio which gave us a little boost in performance, but even though it's only weight removal, it still affects the handling of the car. At some tracks it would not be a huge issue, but Mid-Ohio is unique in the fact that there are two to three turns where you are applying throttle over a turning crest and when we remove weight from the back of the car, it greatly effects getting the power down and it also increases rear tire wear.

"I know this sounds weird but I am actually looking forward to Daytona in two weeks. We were pretty fast in the Rolex and I think the weight removal will make a bigger difference there."

After a season of chasing the lithe Mazdas, Liddell expressed his thanks to GRAND-AM for the rules changes. He also noted he is a little 'tired' about the advantages enjoyed by others in the GT class.

Liddell: "I have to say thank you to GRAND-Am for recognizing that the Camaro is at a significant disadvantage to the competition. This was clearly demonstrated by their almost unprecedented decision to take 130 pounds of ballast out of our car prior to the Mid Ohio event. I am sure that they believed that this would be all that was required to put us right up at the front and give us the chance to win races. But as we have seen consistently throughout this season, on new tires we can fight at or near the front for a few laps, although we quickly lose a significant amount of grip and fall backwards down the field. The problem is simple. This year we have a rear tire which offers less grip than the 2009 tire and the Camaro -whilst it is a great car - has inherently less downforce than the car we ran last season. In addition we are forced to run an artificially high ride height which raises our centre of gravity and works the already overloaded rear tires even harder.

"You can go around in circles from an engineering standpoint but when your competition is running on a tire which offers more grip and longevity and is therefore superior, it is basically impossible to compete within the further constraints set by the Series. Taking ballast out of the car is clearly a positive step but sadly it is not dealing with the root cause of the problem. In my view the balance of performance will now be skewed as we will undoubtedly be competitive on the high banks at Daytona due to that reduced weight and aero drag, although as soon as we return to a traditional road course we will again struggle for grip and we will be back to square one."

Andrew Davis felt the weekend's results were really not indicative of what could have been.

Davis: "After a string of poor finishes, it was nice to get the Stevenson No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / VinSolutions / VonAllmen Capital Partners Chevrolet Camaro GT.R. back into a decent points paying position. However, the amount of effort put forth both on and off the track usually would find us standing on the podium at the end of the race. The balance of the car felt okay for the first several laps of a stint, but the rear tires just wouldn't stay under the car for very long. That left us chasing an ill-handling car for the majority of the race, which is especially difficult at a technically challenging circuit like Mid-Ohio."

It was hot at Mid-Ohio on race day leaving many drivers feeling as though they had been stuck in a high-speed sauna. With conditions like that a driver needs his equipment to function properly. Unfortunately, the heat had no foe on this day.

"Despite an evening start time, the ambient temperature was quite high at the drop of the green flag. Things were made even more difficult when the helmet blower and cool suit failed to work properly. There is no time to relax at a track like Mid-Ohio, and the competition was very tight. So, it was a struggle to stay hydrated and avoid getting overheated during the race."

Liddell too felt the heat.

Liddell: "The race itself was very tough as the cool suit did not function and the cockpit temperatures were high. We were struggling with a lack of grip after only a few laps so after having a good go at the beginning of the stint with some great racing and getting up the front with some good pit work and strategy we slowly slipped back and for the rest of the race just tried not to make too many mistakes or go off the road. I could not push the car much at all as the tires went off quite quickly which made the handling quite tricky, so I had to work very hard just to bring the car home in fifth place.

At one point, a Corvette spun just a short distance in front of Davis. He managed to quickly - and barely - make his way around the spinning car but a Mazda following closely behind didn't enjoy the same bit of luck. The two collided heavily putting them both out of contention.

Davis: "Things were very close out there, especially as I took to the grass to avoid a spinning competitor near the end of my stint. As we entered Turn 13, the two cars in front of me made contact sending one spinning towards the inside of the track! I made a quick decision to drive into the grass at full speed only to miss being collected by a few inches. The car directly behind me wasn't so lucky, suffering race ending damage from the incident."

For the No. 97 car, a bit of 'bounce-back' at speed put them a lap down when repairs were required after a Daytona Prototype played 'me-first' with Gunter Schaldach.

Schaldach: "I now know what the "DP chop" is. The damage to the car was caused when I entered the last turn onto the straight with a DP on the inside. It seemed like no big deal until there was no more track left for me to go on and the DP was still tracking out. As this turn is relatively slow when two cars are side by side, I didn't think the contact would be severe so I stayed on track and took some contact instead of going off track to avoid the contact. The contact caused huge problems for the 97. It tore the fender mounts and within two turns the fender ripped off when enough air got under it. The main damage was the cracked splitter. It eventually hung down enough to cause a considerable amount of balancing issues to the car.

"Ronnie got in the car and did an amazing job often matching the lap times of the leaders even with the severe damage to the car. At one point in the race we thought the engine was overheating and Ronnie did an unscheduled pit. On this stop the Splitter was found to have severe damage and unfortunately needed to be fixed which put us a lap down to the leaders. Despite the damage Ronnie was able to match lap times but we were not able to get our lap back.

"I am very excited about the rest of the season as I believe we had a podium car today. With Ben and Mike on the stand running strategy and Chris, Pat, Nick, Marty, Jason and the rest of the crew working the pit, we had the best chance this year for our first trophy. I look forward to the progress we will make in the next race. Without the damage I am confident a podium was attainable."

Johnson: "I was very pleased with the performance of the team and the drivers and we seemed to do everything right other than Gunter getting chopped by a DP. If that had not happened I think Ronnie would have easily been fighting for a top five finish."

The next race on the GRAND-Am Rolex Series schedule will be the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3rd.

-source: stevenson motorsports

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