The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT4.R was on pace all weekend long as the team visited its home track with the annual visit to VIRginia International Raceway. Drivers Matt Bell and Robin Liddell posted top three times through the weekend’s practice sessions, with Bell securing a spot on the front row for Saturday’s Biscuitville Grand Prix at VIRginia International Raceway.
Bell took the green and slotted into second at the start as the pole-sitting No. 59 Mustang used its top speed to excellent effect despite the constant pressure from Bell for the lead.
“It’s great to see that we are running up front for the majority of the race,” Bell said. “The car was really good. We capitalized on what we thought the car could do and made the most out of what we had. We are still a little bit outpaced, especially on top speed which showed against the Mustang. Overall the car was running really great and I am happy with the performance that we got out of it today.”
The two hour race saw Bell take to the pits on Lap 25 as the team kept in mind tire wear, track position, and fuel needs for the big GS Class machines.
Those calculations were on point, as the team was able to gain the lead following a full course caution that saw the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro out front following that stop to install Robin Liddell as well as fresh Continental tires and fuel.
Another yellow flag interrupted the flow of the race, with a second yellow coming on Lap 34.
During the lead up to the restart with 22 minutes remaining, Liddell found himself the target of the championship leading No. 28 machine as he was hit from behind while still behind the safety car.
The impact gave the Camaro extensive rear damage and hampered his chance to fight for the win as the rear bumper hung by threads along with sustaining exhaust damage. Despite the odds being against him, Liddell kept in the fight and closed out the race in second.
“I got hit pretty hard coming back down the hill for the restart,” said Liddell. “We sustained some damage to the back and the exhaust sounded a bit different so I think we lost a bit of horsepower. It was a really good race and great opening stint by Matt (Bell). It was pretty tricky with the pickup and the amount of seal out there. I am happy with a second-place finish and the whole team worked really hard to get us here.”
Team Strategist Mike Johnson called a perfect strategy throughout the race but was disappointed to have sustained damage at such a critical point in the race.
“The good news is that we aren’t here fighting for a championship, we are fighting for wins,” said Johnson. “Robin (Liddell) drove to win today. It’s unfortunate when something like that happens because you have 28 cars going for a championship. At the end of the day we had a really good race with the 59 Mustang and we made some good strategy moves to get us up front.”
The next round of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Championship will be at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 21st-24th.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Stevenson Motorsports is poised for a solid result going into Sunday’s VIR race event as the team claimed the home-track advantage as the team’s headquarters is just down the road in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Lawson Aschenbach and Andrew Davis laid down consistent lap times throughout the event’s three practice sessions, which never placed them outside of the top three. The team saw improvements throughout each session, ultimately working up to its fastest time of the weekend – a 1:43.644-second lap – which provided some optimism ahead of the qualifying session.
“The car has been really good for us this weekend,” said Aschenbach. “We have been doing a little fine tuning as the track conditions changed. We have been tweaking things here and there to gain a little bit more speed. I am happy with the balance and I think we are in a good place, but this is going to be a tough race. There is a good chance that this race could go green the whole way which changes your thinking. As long as the car is good on a long run I think we have a really good shot at this.”
Davis took to the qualifying session feeling positive, but keeping the competition in the back of his mind. With the anticipation that the Audi improves throughout the session, Davis knew that he would be pushing until the very last lap. Crossing the finish line just in time for one more lap, Davis was able to improve three positions which placed him in third with a 1:43.770-second flyer.
“It was a pretty stressful session and I found myself holding my breath at times,” said Davis. “We knew that our car was better over the long run so I knew that I was going to need every single lap. The last few laps there was traffic and people racing each other, so I was just trying to build a gap. It all came down to the last lap. I was able to get under the checkered flag by about two seconds. I just gave it everything I could on that last lap because I knew we couldn’t start mid pack. It was a great session as we made progress with the car and it was the quickest lap that I had turned all weekend.”
Source. Sunday Group