Their endurance in the event gained them a final double top-10 for the season as well as third place in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup for the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.
Matt Bell, Lawson Aschenbach, and Dion von Moltke joined forces in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS entry to score a sixth place result while Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, and Mike Skeen combined in the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS for an eighth place finish.
The brother Audi machines took the green flag from the third row for the famed 10 hour American homage to Le Mans, with Aschenbach seeing the green flag in fifth just before Liddell in sixth.
Both veteran Stevenson drivers knew exactly what to do as they went mostly quiet on the team radio, focusing on pulling every ounce of performance out of their twin red, white, and blue Audi machines before pitting just before the one hour mark.
Davis took controls of the No. 6 and rejoined the fray under green flag running just before Bell hopped in the No. 9. Bell spent his stint battling traffic up front as he ran up to third place before making another routine pit for fuel and tires around the two hour and 27 minute mark.
Davis’ first stint proved a bit more exciting as he suffered a hit to the side in Turn 10a just after the two hour mark. Despite the hit, the Georgia native continued to set fast lap times and battle for position, running all the way up to second place before pitting around the three hour and nine minute mark to turn the Audi over to Skeen.
After working his way back up to fourth, Bell pitted just after the No. 6 car to give von Moltke his turn to race around Road Atlanta. The Stevenson newcomers battled hard as von Moltke ran from seventh to second and Skeen from ninth to third, despite contact from a competitor, in under an hour before a lengthy caution period just past the fourth race hour mark halted their forward progress.
While the track workers raced to repair damage to the track surface in Turn 3, Skeen and von Moltke cycled under yellow, both making two routine pit stops during the caution.
Just before returning to green, Skeen handed the No. 6 back over to Liddell and quick work by the crew saw the Scot take the restart in 10th position with Davis just ahead in seventh.
Consistent and quick lap times from both cars saw them run in podium contention as the race entered its second half, with von Moltke pitting from the lead with just under four hours remaining to allow Bell another turn. Liddell followed down pit lane shortly thereafter to put Davis back in for a mega stint in the No. 6.
Remaining on similar strategy, both cars pitted with just three hours remaining as Davis led the way taking just fuel and tires, followed closely by the No. 9 with Aschenbach newly behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, Davis was forced to persevere after another hit led to a flat tire and extra pit stop before he was able to pit with just one hour and 40 minutes remaining to hand the car over to Liddell.
As darkness descended in earnest Liddell and Aschenbach settled in to the finish of the endurance event. Despite struggling with rear grip, Aschenbach managed to remain in the top-five for the majority of his stint, ultimately taking the checkers in sixth place.
Liddell persevered as well, managing a battle-worn Audi for his final double stint to bring it home in eighth place.
“When we came into this race our first goal was to have both cars on the lead lap at the last restart and we got really close to that,” explained Team Strategist Mike Johnson. “Unfortunately we had a flat tire on one car, but honestly neither one of the cars really had the pace all weekend. But the guys never gave up. This was our first ever Petit Le Mans and we walk away with a sixth and eighth. It was a great learning experience for when we do this again next year.”
The team has winning experience at the highest levels, and the move to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship following the 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship saw the well-unified squad grow strength with each outing.
“We had our ups and downs this season,” said Johnson. “I am obviously disappointed that we didn’t win a race this year, that’s the first time that has happened since 2008. But the guys never quit and we come out of this season with fourth in points. We had a great mid-season run where it was podium, podium, podium and I thought that was going to go all the way to the end. The season ended about an hour ago and now, the next season starts. We have our testing planned and the cars will get a nice bath and guys will take a nice nap and we will do it again next year.”
The Jacksonville, North Carolina based team now begins preparations for the 2017 season with further announcements to come.
Andrew Davis, No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “Not exactly the storybook ending we were hoping for on our 2016 season. It was a grueling 10 hour battle, and I’m very pleased with the effort put forth by the Stevenson Motorsports crew today. However, we were just a bit off the pace and unable to fight for the victory. It was an amazing year of ups and downs, but we made unbelievable progress with our new Audi R8 LMS during the season. I want to thank John and Susan Stevenson for this wonderful opportunity, and each of the Stevenson Motorsports crew for an unrelenting push all season long. I’m so very proud to be a member of this program. Also, a big thank you to Audi Sport Customer racing for all of their support. It was definitely an impressive team effort this year!”
Robin Liddell, No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “Our result today was a disappointing day to be honest with you, but not totally surprising. We really struggled to get a good balance with the car all weekend and we were chasing the handling of the car. I think we qualified reasonably considering the handling issues. The start of the race was a lot of fun I kind of just got stuck in and jumped up to third. But then, it was clear to me quite quickly that I was going to start struggling with the rear tires. Then, once I fell back into the clutches of the cars behind me, then the rear grip got really bad and we were losing three or four seconds a lap on every stint. But the car was well prepared and the guys did a really good job. We had a bit of a thrash last night based on the noise that I had heard in qualifying and the last practice. But all around the car was reliable and that’s good. I want to thank all the guys for all of the hard work. The support we have had from the Stevensons and from Audi has been really good. Despite the frustrations of not getting the results that we would have hoped for and that we had been used to in the past. With the new program there is a lot of learning and it puts us in a good spot going into next year if we are going to continue and try and build on what we have learned and what we have achieved this year.”
Mike Skeen, No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “It was really a great honor to be selected by Stevenson and to run in the No. 6 car with Robin (Liddell) and Andrew (Davis). It’s a huge team of really good people and it has been a pleasure to work with them even for a brief weekend. I would love to do so again in the future even though we had a bit of a struggle this weekend from the beginning. It was still a good experience. I’m glad to be here and be a part of the whole show.”
Dion von Moltke, No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “It has been awesome to come back to Stevenson Motorsports. The last time I drove for them was seven months ago at Sebring and it’s really impressive to see the improvements on the team. There was more structure on how the weekend went and as a third driver, which is always a difficult role because it’s not your car, you’ve got to adapt to the other guys and just fit in. They made it a lot easier on me to come in and do my job and I really love driving for them. Our Audi R8 LMS was quick for most of the race. At the end we had a few small issues that kept us from really going after the win. But we had great strategy, we had great pit stops and I got to lead a few laps. All in all, it was a frustrating end position but I think we can be proud of what we did. Both cars came back fully intact and the drivers did a great job. Driving with Lawson (Aschenbach) and Matt (Bell) was a good time and they both do a hell of a job. I really enjoyed being back here and I hope I can join Stevenson for more races because they are a great organization. Wins are coming their way, they just need to keep working at it and hopefully have some breaks.”
Lawson Aschenbach, No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “It’s obviously not the finish that we wanted. We came in with pretty high hopes because we thought the car was fairly good through practice, especially night practice. For whatever reason we didn’t seem to have the speed that we had hoped for during the race. We survived and got to the end. I know, really in the end, we can view this year as a really good learning experience. I think we are going to be able to go into the off season with a lot of data and a lot of understanding of what happened. We can really review everything and come into next year and full board, ready to go. I still don’t think this team gets credit for the fact that this was a huge undertaking from the GS to the GT3 cars. With what we went through in the beginning of the season, we had one car in the championship hunt and then we were in the hunt for the NAEC. I am really excited for next year and I think we are going to take a huge step in the right direction. I really want to thank everyone at Stevenson Motorsports. These guys really worked flat out since December. It’s a testament to this program and the people and the quality of the people we have here. It’s an honor to drive this car, it’s an honor to have these guys working on the car. I trust them with my life and I can’t thank them enough. On top of that Audi and all of the support they have given us this year. The car has been a blast to drive. It was a really refreshing year as a driver. Being able to get back into a proper race car with high down force, big grip levels, good brakes, it really puts a smile on your face in the end. It has been such an amazing experience driving this R8 all season. I loved getting to know everyone at Audi Sport and they have been a great help to the program. I think we are looking forward to continuing that relationship into the future.”
Matt Bell, No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – “First of all, I am super proud of what the team has done with this program. We had some issues early on and we sorted everything out. By the end of the season here at Atlanta we didn’t have the result that we wanted but these cars are beat to a pulp and they still made it all the way to the finish. The team knows how to work on these cars and they know how to tune them to go fast. We were one of the most competitive cars this weekend. I think we had some issues with the car that reduced its performance but in the end we did make it the full 10 hours. I am really proud of them for that. It was my first full season in GT. As far as this race goes, we had the rare instance where all six of us were able to put it top-five, which is really the key to win this thing. I think had things gone a little bit differently we would have had that, so I’m looking forward to whatever next year brings.”
Source. Sunday Group