Laguna notebook: Stevenson Racing, Freedom Autosport win Continental Tire Challenge
Robin Liddell holds off Billy Johnson for overall victory.
Robin Liddell, driving the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, held off a hard-charging Billy Johnson in the No. 15 Multimatic Ford Mustang Boss 302R to take the overall victory and the GS class win Saturday at the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Liddell, who co-drove with Andrew Davis, managed a .552-second winning margin over Johnson’s Mustang, co-driven by Scott Maxwell in the two hour, 30 minute Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda. Third was B.J. Zacharias and Brad Jaeger in their No. 14 Doran Nissan GT Academy 370Z, followed by Matt and Hugh Plumb in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911.
It was a solid, steady performance for the Stevenson team, who tops the series points.
A caution with about 15 minutes to go bunched the field, and the fact that the Mustang, “which seemed to come out of nowhere,” Liddell said, took tires during a pit stop gave them a late-race edge.
ST win a popular one
In the ST class, it was a popular victory for the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 of Liam Dwyer, a Marine sergeant who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan, and teammate Andrew Carbonell.
Dwyer drove the first stint, and until a few turns from the end on the last lap, it appeared Carbonell would have to settle for second, when Carbonell squeezed by Freedom teammate Tom Long for the win.
Long and Dwyer teamed up last year for a Mazda victory at Lime Rock, but this time Long and teammate Britt Casey had to settle for second in the No. 25 Mazda. Third was still another MX-5, the No. 34 Alara Racing car driven by Justin Piscitell and Christian Szymczak. In fourth, and the first non-Miata MX-5, was the No. 44 Honda Civic Si of Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler.
Victory Lane was an especially moving scene: Dwyer, still a Marine staff sergeant, very likely would have died had it not been for the actions of fellow Marine sergeant Aaron Denning, who was there on May 22, 2011, when Dwyer, patrolling in Afghanistan, stepped on a mine. Denning rushed to Dwyer’s aid and performed lifesaving procedures that saved his life. Dwyer lost most of his right leg, and suffered lasting injuries to his right hand, compounded by injuries he received in Iran in 2007 when an explosive device blew up his Humvee.
Denning had never seen Dwyer race. That changed Saturday when he not only attended the Continental Tire Challenge, he was an honored guest who waved the green flag to start the race. Dwyer’s mother was also at the track – she had never met the man who saved her son’s life.
The race will air on Fox Sports 1 May 17 at 9 a.m. ET. Next up for the Continental Tire Challenge: Watkins Glen, June 25-27.
C360R MOVING ON UP: Longtime Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge team C360R, previously known as Compass360 Racing, started in the series in the ST class, then moved up to GS, and this week announced another expansion of its Audi racing program to include an Audi R8 LMS for the TUDOR Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class.
The new No. 76 car will be driven by Ray Mason and Pierre Kleinubing, with help from AERO Advanced Paint Technology, Spyder apparel and Audi Sport Customer Racing. They will continue to fly the colors of their charity of choice, the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
“We’re incredibly excited to extend our Audi program with what is undeniably a big move for our team,” said C360R Team Principal Karl Thomson. “Over the past few years we’ve expanded from ST to GS, and we feel that the time is right for us to make the jump to GTD.”
“We are delighted to welcome Compass360 into the family,” said Audi Sport customer racing Director of Operations Brad Kettler.
MICHELIN MOURNED: Extended racing family members of Michelin, which supplies tires for seven of the GT Le Mans teams in the TUDOR Championship, are mourning the death of 88-year-old Francois Michelin. Michelin ran the company for 47 years before turning over the reins to his son Edouard, who ran the company before his untimely death in 2006 in a boating accident. “On behalf of all employees in the Group, I would like to pay tribute to this exceptional man, unanimously respected for his values, his convictions and his perspicacity,” Michelin chairman Jean-Dominique Senard told French newspaper La Montagne.
SUPPORTING CAST: Saturday’s Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo series race was won by Richard Antinucci in the O’Gara Motorsport entry. The series will compete again on Sunday.
TUNE IN, TURN ON: The Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda will be covered live on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 4 p.m. The green flag waves at 4:05 p.m. for two hours, 40 minutes of action. IMSA.com and the new IMSA Mobile App will stream in-car cameras, live timing and scoring, and IMSA Radio’s play-by-play.
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