TEAM NEWS: Twin Stevenson Corvettes Land Top 10 Finishes At VIR

Photo by John Thawley You don't win the SunTrust "Improve Your Position Award" in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented By Crown Royal Reserve unless you come a long way from where you started. The #57 Stevenson Motorsports Corvette could not possibly have started any further back than dead last. The crew was forced to make emergency repairs to damage caused when a tire blew during qualifying. Working at a feverish pace they completed the repairs just in time for the red, white and blue Corvette to exit the pit lane behind the rest of the field.

Despite the poor starting position, Marc Bunting and Dominic Cicero pooled all their driving talents into an effort that brought them from 27th to a 9th place finish.

Marc Bunting: "Overall I am really happy with our results. We finished in the top 10. We had a good car for qualifying but that tire blowing out put us in a scramble to make the start of the race. I'm not sure exactly how that tire blew. I had come in for a camber adjustment and when I came into the brake zone at the same place I always brake -- maybe a hair deeper -- I hit the brakes and they locked up. They came off then went back on, and then I couldn't get off them. I tried to do one more lap even though they now had a flat spot on them but they blew apart on me as I was coming down the back straight. The damage to the car put us behind in getting ready for the start.

"But we finished up 9th so I have to say the team did a great job considering our start from last place and the damage done to the car this morning."

Dominic Cicero: "It was a pretty good run for a new car. I was happy with our progress. It was good for a top ten finish, and who knows, we might have made top five if we hadn't started from pit lane at the back of the field."

The #97 Stevenson Corvette had an excellent run that saw them finishing 7th. Tommy Riggins considered this outing to be the teams best, given the circumstances.

"All in all we had a pretty good run. We were just about as successful as our car capabilities could be right now. It was somewhat of a victory for us because we ran healthy the whole race. We were healthy at the end and didn't drop off nearly as much as the leaders. There were a lot of successes in this race. That is the best we are going to do until Grand-Am makes some adjustments. This was an all out race. It was all green. The pit stops went well. But as for adjustments, that is just the way Grand-Am wants it right now."

Vic Rice is Riggins co-driver in the Riggins Engineering built #97 Chevrolet. He too felt all the cards dealt to this team in this car still gave them a winning hand.

"You know, it turned out to be a better race for us then we would have thought on Friday. We were struggling to stay off the bottom of the time chart. The team worked hard and we made lots of changes. We found a few things in the morning session and the car got better. We showed that by qualifying 12th. I was able to get us up to 7th in the race.

"Mike (Johnson's) pit strategy was excellent. Tommy had a stellar stint at the end and when the Mazda ran out of gas on the last lap that jumped us from 8th to 7th and to finish 7th with this field of cars, and the battling that went on, was really rewarding.

Mike Johnson joined the Stevenson team this season as Team Manager and he too felt the team got all the car had to offer as it is set up under the current rules.

"Having two cars in the top ten is really good. We still have a lot of work to do to get our rear tires to last. #57 had the 8th quickest lap on new rubber but when those tires were 20 laps old we were one of the slowest cars. We've been working to fix it but we just haven't solved that problem yet. The rear end is a little light and the car has a lot of power so the rubber just spins right off.

"Pit stops were great but if you are a little slow it is hard to be competitive in an all green flag race. You can do a lot of strategy to help yourselves out but the team made good stops and all things considered I am pretty happy coming out of here."

One issue that did arise in the 80 degree Virginia sunshine was about keeping cool in a hot race car. Cicero looked like a baked potato when he exited the #57 car after the race.

"I had some trouble with my cool suit. The connector got caught up and I wound up using my drink bottle to pour liquid in my suit to cool down. This car is the hottest car I have ever driven. It's kind of difficult to drive because it's numb -- it doesn't give a lot of feedback. It understeers then oversteers and goes back and forth, which is kind of weird because it is usually one or the other."

Cool suit issues aside, the Stevenson Motorsports Corvettes were as hot as they have ever been this time around at Virginia International Raceway. This marks the first time both team cars finished in the top 10. And it was the first time a team car had made the most dramatic improvement from the start to the finish of the race.


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.