Grand AM » 02 February 2007
Grand-Am: Double finish like win for Stevenson.
It may not have had the added satisfaction of making it to the top step of the podium at Daytona but, for Stevenson Motorsports, getting its two different Chevrolet Corvettes to the finish line after 24 hours of tough competition was a result in itself.
The team knew that it had its work cut out as one of 24 teams - and running two of 44 cars - in the GT class, but was one of the few to survive an arduous Rolex 24 and see the chequered flag with both cars. Running a pair of Corvettes, the #97 built last season by Tommy Riggins Engineering and the #57 built this year by Crawford Race Cars, the team battled mechanical issues, rain, heavy traffic and being hit by a faster Daytona Prototype to make it to the end, but probably realised that it would be a tough weekend when problems struck on the way to Daytona.
On Wednesday, the brand new trailer used to haul equipment in support of the #97 car suffered a failure of its rear axle seals, and only the alertness of driver Dexter Johnson prevented a major fire from destroying the trailer and its contents. The incident also delayed the car's arrival by an extra day, which had an impact on the team's preparation schedule.
Friday's practice session then increased the stresses placed on the crew, as the #97 was hit by a Daytona Prototype while team owner John Stevenson was behind the wheel. The damage was so extensive that the car had to be taken back to Riggins' shop in Jacksonville for major repairs, the crew worked through the night to get the car turned around and back to Daytona for Saturday morning and the start of the race.
"Not having the Friday afternoon crash damage to repair would have given us a chance to catch up with car preparation for the race," Riggins admitted, "but the crew on the #97 car did surprisingly well considering all the setbacks.
"The car handled surprisingly well, especially with absolutely no constructive practice or testing time, and also with no laps to sort the repaired crash damage before the race. John Hobbs, Nic Sanna, and Beau Dickinson had been up and working to get the car repaired for over 36 hours before the race started, and then to perform the way they did under that duress and without fail for the next entire 24 hours of the race - along with the rest of the pit crew - says a lot about their dedication and commitment to the success of this racing team."
The Riggins-built car finished 27th in class, completing 414 laps, and co-driver Vic Rice joined the applause for the hard-working crew members who suffered through two all-night repair sessions, plus the 24 hours of the race itself.
"I'm not sure there is a team in the paddock that spent more hours working on their car the week of the race, including two all night sessions just prior to the race," he said, "This is a team that was determined to see the chequered flag fly over the #97 car."
During the race itself, the #97 suffered several mechanical setbacks directly attributable to the need to spend so many hours putting things back together before the race even started, giving Rice a scare early on.
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