The Stevenson Motorsports charge for three consecutive IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge victories ended at Road America on Saturday after the race was called early following heavy rains and lightning. The team, which won the Watkins Glen and Lime Rock Park rounds in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT4.R, was classified fourth at the finish with drivers Matt Bell and Robin Liddell.
Starting on Row 4 for the two-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Road America, Bell set his focus on the start, hoping to use momentum to gain position.
The opening stages of the race were textbook close and competitive Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge racing. Bell ran nose to tail with the top seven cars, frequently dicing for position and at one point moving up to third. While there were Porsches, McLarens, and Mustangs all in the mix, it really was the long front straightaway that proved to be the biggest competitor for the No. 57 Camaro GT4.R as it struggled to keep top speed compared to the competition.
But anticipating this would be the case, Bell capitalized on the strengths of his Camaro through the low speed cornering sections which helped him to gain a gap on the competition and allow his nose to stay in the battle.
Midway through his stint Bell had a spectacular save as he and the leading ST car tangled in a braking zone. Bell was pushed off into the damp grass – turning him around. Miraculously Bell returned back on track without losing a single position.
With threatening clouds approaching in the distance, Bell finished out his stint before turning the car over to Liddell on Lap 22.
The pit stop was another performance boost for the team, with quick work helping to gain track position as Liddell returned on track with a fresh set of Continental Tires and full tank of fuel. But his charge to the checkers was abruptly cut off two laps later as the red flag was released for lightning in the area.
After a red flag brought the field into the pits, rain came down heavily with a lightning warning keeping the cars in place until IMSA called the race with 15 minutes remaining with the No. 57 slotted in fourth position.
“We knew going into this race we were going to struggle a little bit with top speed but I didn’t expect it to be that bad,” said Bell. “In order to make up spots we have to be super daring going into corners, in the middle of corners and on exit, but it’s way more risky. The car was performing well and they made the right decision to go back to the set up that we tried during testing. I feel bad for Robin (Liddell) because he didn’t get to drive and you never want that. Robin is a great competitor and he would have been very fast.”
“It was a very exciting race to watch,” said team strategist, Mike Johnson. “The McLarens have a lot of straight-line speed and we have a great cornering car. We expected that back-and-forth during the race. We really needed to get ahead of the McLarens coming out of Turn 5 so that we could get enough of a gap to get around them in the Carousel, but then they would just drive right past us on the straightaway. Matt (Bell) was doing a great job battling and he got stuck in some ST traffic and got pushed off by another guy who didn’t see him. It’s unfortunate that the race had to end the way it did. But, onto the next race.”
“It was just disappointing because we come here to race and we didn’t get to race,” said Liddell. “It would have been nice to have had a green-white-checkered finish just to get us back out on track. I think we had a shot in the rain and it would have been nice to put our full effort forth and finish out strong.”
Source. Sunday Group