TEAM NEWS: Stevenson Corvette Crashes Hard At The Glen

Photo by John Thawley On Saturday, June 9th, the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen was held at the historic Watkins Glen International Speedway in Watkins Glen, New York. This marked the seventh race in the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Reserves season. It also marked the return of the combining of the Daytona Prototypes and the GT class cars in a single event.

And at the end of the day, the two car Stevenson Motorsports Corvette team was down to a single race car still at speed.

Race day was overcast with dark clouds filling all the available space in the skies over Watkins Glen, but the water they surely contained was never released upon the grounds. But there was a heavy dose of rain for the Stevenson Motorsports Team when Vic Rice, in the #97 Corvette, found his ride going in the completely wrong direction making violent contact with the wall at turn 9. The impact was so hard it destroyed the front of the car and bounced the car back onto the racing line. A second car, a TRG Porsche, also fell victim when the spinning Corvette came back across the track and directly into the Porsche's path. The net result was two cars gone from the race, a full course yellow throwing the pits into a frenzy of activity, and one disappointed race team wondering if their driver was OK.

Rice put their minds at ease when he said afterwards: "I am perfectly fine. It was a big shunt and the spins were quite violent but the car held up well and all the safety gear did its job. Remarkably I don't have a single injury to show for such a dramatic crash."

The mangled remains of the car, originally built by Riggins Engineering in Jacksonville, Florida, were hauled on a flat bed truck back to the Stevenson paddock. The team is not sure the car can be repaired in time for the next race at Mid-Ohio. Most likely it will miss that event as there is much to be done to get the car back into racing shape.

The crash left the team with one remaining combatant in the always difficult Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The #57 Corvette, built by Crawford Race Cars and piloted by Marc Bunting and Dominic Cicero II, made it through to finish 12th in class and 31st overall.

Bunting is encouraged by the way the car performed and he sees opportunities for improvement still ahead.

"All the guys on the #57 car went above and beyond the call of duty this past weekend. The 6 Hours race is no endurance race - it is an all out sprint to the finish. Our guys did an outstanding job of keeping our car in the race and making it to the finish. If it was not for mechanical gremlins with the rear camber shims we would have been battling for a top 5 at the end. But we are making significant progress on the car at every race I am looking forwarding to applying what we learned this weekend to Mid-Ohio."

The team missed the test day on Thursday. As a consequence, they were playing catch up with set up and race preparations, especially for the #97 car..

Rice: "Missing the test day put us far behind in finding a setup and several other

Issues that cropped up minimized our practice time. The car was almost un-driveable in the morning practice, according to Tommy (Riggins, who along with James Gue co-drove the #97 car), so we guessed and changed a bunch of things right up to race time but we were really just guessing.

"When James went backwards in his opening stint we knew we had issues we would have to work around. The team worked hard at finding compromises and the drivers drove around the problems for the most part finding ways to go quicker. This combined with a good pit strategy kept us in the hunt for a top 10 finish until 55 minutes to go."

And then came the sudden shift in direction literally and figuratively for the team when Rice came out of the turn and instantly headed directly for the powder-blue guardrail that lines most of this historic circuit.

Rice almost knew the possibility of disaster was lurking within the body of his ill handling Corvette, and when it struck, he was powerless to prevent it.

"The car had some intermittent power steering problems and significant oversteer during the race. On the fateful lap the car had more oversteer than before and the sudden, violent snap to the right re-entering the short course took me totally by surprise with no chance to react. Time will tell if they discover a mechanical reason for the accident but till then I have to assume it was pilot error. It's a real shame for the whole Stevenson Motorsports team and especially for John and Susan Stevenson who really looked forward to seeing both their cars run at Mid Ohio and Daytona."

James Gue had earlier gotten in his stint in the #97 car and he, Riggins, and Rice were on their way to a top 10 finish when the accident happened. Gue is understandably disappointed in the end result, but he was pleased to learn his teammate was unharmed and pleased to be back with the Stevenson Team for this race, having last run with them at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona back in January.

"I was very happy to be back with Stevenson Motorsports. Unfortunately we missed the first day of practice, which put us behind for the entire weekend. It was a bit of an uphill battle, but all things considered we were hanging in there in the race with a less than ideal car, as we missed the setup.

"Even with all the problems the team worked hard, and it looked like we were on track for a top 8 finish. It was really unfortunate what happened with Vic, I'm just glad to hear he was OK after such a big hit. I feel bad for all the crew, they deserved a better result. I just need to thank all the guys and Johnny for having me back this weekend."

The Stevenson Team will move on to the Mid Ohio round of the series, set for the weekend of June 23-24.

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