Stevenson Motorsports Suffers Setback in Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix


Laguna_05Monterey, Calif. (3 May 2014) – Hopes were high for Stevenson Motorsports as the team returned to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix. Having won the event twice in the past three years and finished second in last year’s race, Stevenson was looking for a repeat performance as the Stevenson group returned this year with the new Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R.

Following the race-winning outing in the last event at Sebring International Raceway, the team was saddled with some added heft as IMSA updated the Balance of Performance rules with an extra 100 lbs. for the Z/28.

Matt Bell, who calls Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca his home track, and Andy Lally joined forces in the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R. Lally opened the event from seventh on the grid, while teammates Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell were paired in the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R with Davis at the wheel from the fourth starting slot.

The opening stint was relatively uneventful for the Stevenson drivers as it was stunted with full course caution periods, keeping the race and the team from getting into  a rhythm, though both cars had moved up the order early on.

Laguna_04A full course caution as the race approached the 45 minute mark allowed the team to pit for tires, fuel and a driver change with both entries. Unfortunately, soon after that, things started to get exciting, but not in a good way. Liddell reported that something was amiss with the gear lever and by the end of an extended period on pit road for the fix, Liddell had fallen to the very tail end of the lead lap.

Meanwhile, Bell found himself in a fierce battle at the front end of the field, as multiple machines fought for space on the narrow track. A full fuel load was called for on the next stop, sliding him back into the clutches of cars he had already overtaken on track.

Through a series of additional full course and local caution periods, both cars continued to battle, working back into the 10th and 12th positions. With less than 10 minutes of the two and a half hour event remaining, Liddell was collected as two other machines had contact as the Scotsman was fighting for a top-10 result. While Liddell was able to get back on track, he had lost more than 10 spots and found himself taking the checkered flag 18th in line.  Bell brought the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R home in 11th position.

“We had the shifter come apart on one car so that kind of threw the car off strategy,” said Team Manager Mike Johnson. “With the No. 9 car we did some stuff (with strategy) that got them some track position, we had the position and we should have splashed on the yellow but we didn’t so then we had to pit him later and it was too late. We put new tires on the car but we still kept going backwards. I don’t know how much better we could have been. It’s easy to sit and complain about the weight, but when there is a Camaro that finishes second, you know you have some work to do.”

Stevenson Motorsports now looks ahead to the next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Lime Rock Park on May 23-24.

Andy Lally, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “Not a lot of long runs today, but I did get one long run in to give the guys some feedback for some future races. This is quite a unique track in the way that it doesn’t take a lot of rubber. With the sand that we have around the track and the constant wind you typically have the same conditions for most of the race. Our baseline was not quite where we wanted it and we’ve been fighting that since we rolled off the trailer. We were trying to get a little bit of rear tire life out of it. We knew coming into it that being the heaviest car in the field by 200+ pounds that that’s how it was going to be. When we went to yellow and went back to green our tires really weren’t behaving really well. We had our hands full there but just kept it clean and just handed it off to Matt (Bell) to finish it out at his home track.”

Matt Bell, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “The team worked really hard all weekend. We came out here and we had an issue that we kind of had to sort out. It wasn’t a big deal; teething issues with the new car and it was an easy fix. But we were a day off basically. The car was decent on new tires we were still kind of hunting for grip and that would sometimes cause a snap to oversteer later in the stint. These tires they’re fine, they’re great, but there is something going on with our big heavy cars and heat cycling them. When we slow down on a caution lap and then go back to green, we have no grip.”

Andrew Davis, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “I’m really happy with the car. The guys have done a good job in giving us something we can work with. We lost a little bit of pace to the first cars. The Camaro Z/28.R ran well and it’s just too bad we don’t have the result to show for it today.”

Robin Liddell, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “When I got in the car I almost immediately felt something wrong in the gear lever but it didn’t manifest itself into a shifting problem for several laps. We started having problems shifting and we realized that it was jumping out of gear. Clearly it needed to be addressed so we came in and the guys put the bolts back in and then we went back out and realized that the piece that had fallen off originally had lodged itself into the linkage so we had to come in again and we finally got it sorted. Ultimately that just put us on the back foot. The car was quite quick over a lap but we were struggling for stint performance and I think a lot of that to had do with the weight. I think if we had been up front we would have made a better race of it. We just didn’t have a car that was quick enough to allow us to go forward so losing track position meant that we were basically out of the game. In the end it’s a disappointing weekend but we need to learn from it and go away and think about how we can come back stronger for Lime Rock.”