Stevenson Motorsports Takes Fourth Place in Texas


624cd41e-cc4a-453a-9478-3267654457e8Austin, Texas (19 September 2014) – It was a rollercoaster day for Stevenson Motorsports at Circuit of the Americas on Friday as inconsistent weather presented added challenges to the team as it entered its first-ever race as the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship leaders. At the checkers, the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell scored a fourth place finish while the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R shared by Matt Bell and Andy Lally ultimately succumbed to a clutch issue and netted a 17th place result.

After a challenging qualifying session for the No. 6, when mechanical gremlins in the braking system created unforeseen challenges, the team started off Friday on a high note, discovering that they would need to replace only one tire and retain their grid position for the championship-leading entry. The No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R  began the race from close behind on the grid.

78dd28bc-562a-4fa4-a9f6-0ec5649faa11 The race itself presented its own challenges as the constantly changing weather conditions impacted the entire field. However, despite the challenging track conditions, Lally handed the car over to Bell in good position and explained how much fun it was to put laps in around Circuit of the Americas in such demanding conditions.

“That was one of the most wild stints I’ve ever had in this series,” laughed Lally after handing the car over to Bell. “It was really fun because it was raining on different portions of the track and completely dry on others. If you’ve never experienced that before, as a race driver on a track, it’s one of the most extremely exciting possible situations that you can be in. On my end, since we’re not in the run for the championship, it becomes fun. But I really feel bad for Andrew (Davis), who is running for a championship, who has to tiptoe around some of the fun parts! For me, selfishly, that was a blast. It couldn’t have had more fun out there, sliding around with a teammate, running at the front and trying to hand over a good car to our other teammate.”

Unfortunately, Bell wasn’t able to have quite the same amount of fun as Lally when the No. 9 machine experienced a gearbox issue which proved too much to overcome shortly into his stint and he was forced to retire from the race on Lap 31.

5f75519b-1bec-48fc-9983-c57a00f9b2d6“Something in the clutch failed,” offered Bell after hopping out of the car. “It was getting bad, it would almost have a bobble on the shift and then the clutch just didn’t come back up off the floor. I popped it up, which worked once, and then it went to the floor again. The clutch was still engaged so I could shift it without the clutch but after five or six laps, that thing was just getting worn out. It’s hard, even in the dry, with a synchro gearbox, without the clutch, but in the wet, just the littlest accidental blip on the downshift or slow on an upshift and you can get all crossed up. So it was just smart to bring it in and save it the best we could.”

Davis began the race in the brother Stevenson Camaro and enjoyed a relatively uneventful stint, especially given the quickly evolving weather conditions and handed the car over to Liddell in good position.

“With a big track like this, the conditions can get really tricky,” commented Davis. “Toward the end of my stint, it was bone dry about 3/4 of the way around but then a little storm cell came across the esses and it was very wet there. So the last three or four laps were a bit dicey for all of us; we were all slip-sliding around. The Stevenson Motorsports crew has done a great job. Our Camaro Z.28/R car is running really well. I was just trying to stay consistent and out of trouble. That first lap was pretty nasty – I was glad to hear that Tim (Bell) got out of his car because that was a pretty scary accident. But at that point in time, we just needed to maintain, run our pace and I had to bring the car back to Robin (Liddell). Andy (Lally) did a great job too – it was nice to have a friend back there.”

As Liddell took over controls of the No. 9 machine, weather conditions worsened and heavier rain began to fall all around the track. Despite the difficulty, Liddell held on and managed to run as high as second positon.

Team Manager Mike Johnson made the call to go with a two pit-stop strategy and to stay on slick tires for the entire race distance. Other competitors chose one-stop and/or wet tire solutions to the ever-changing puzzle. Ultimately, the decision was a roll of the dice as it’s impossible to accurately predict how the weather will impact the track when the cells are small and fast moving.

Liddell continued to hold his own to the end of the 2.5-hour race, consistently putting down competitive lap times with cars on lighter fuel loads and rain tires. While the rain did stop before the end of the race, the track didn’t completely dry, leaving the advantage with the wet-weather shod cars and Liddell settled for a solid finish within the top-five.

“It was a frustrating stint, to be honest,” said Robin Liddell after the race. “It’s frustrating because I know how good our Camaro Z/28.R machines are and how hard the entire crew has worked and I wish we could have scored a more representative result. But at the end of the day, the crew really did give me a great car and we finished in a decent position, so on to Road Atlanta!”

“We definitely had a car that could have competed for the win but we had three top cars run three totally different strategies,” explained Team Manager Mike Johnson. “You had the winner that had rain tires on, the second place car did it on one stop with slicks, the third place car did it on two stops on slicks and we did two and slicks. We were just watching the weather, like everybody else, and thought it would dry up. It never looked like it was going to get any worse when we pitted. When you see a car stop on the front straight, you are expecting a full course yellow. And I didn’t want to be the only guy who didn’t pit since we were running up front. So I took a gamble – I didn’t think that the bad side of that risk could be as bad as it was. Still, fourth isn’t horrible and we were third until the last few laps. When you’ve got the points lead going in and now with only one race to go, we’re five points back. We still have one more race and we have two very good teams that have been going back and forth all year. We’ve got a week to get the cars back together and we’ll get to Road Atlanta and maybe the fortunes will turn for us.”

Stevenson Motorsports will have a short break before they are back to challenge for the championship title at the season finale at Road Atlanta on October 1-3.