The new for 2012 GRAND-AM sanctioned North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) concluded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past weekend with the team that was leading the championship coming in to the weekend - Stevenson Motorsports - knocked out of contention with broken suspensions on both cars. Prior to the bad luck, both cars had a shot at finishing on the podium.
Robin Liddell simply lost traction in a driving rain entering the pits and once the tires lost grip, he could only hold on as the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R slid into the wall. The second Stevenson entry, the No. 75 Camaro driven by Matt Bell and Ronnie Bremer, fared no better when, late in the race, an aggressive Daytona Prototype tried to squeeze between Bremer and the outside wall through a space not wide enough for two. The resulting impact damaged the Camaro to the extent that it too had to be retired early.
Liddell started third on the grid with Bell in the No. 75 car starting in ninth position. They got off to a good start in the wet conditions with Robin opening up a large lead and Matt moving up through the pack. As the rain cleared, both cars pitted for slick tires, but going into turn one, the No. 75 lost a tire, putting them a lap down early in the race. The rains came again, but this time, the No. 57 was still on slicks and hit the wall at the entrance of pit lane. The No. 75, with Ronnie Bremer driving got their lap back with 55 minutes to go and still could have sealed a team victory for the Stevenson team in the NAEC, but it all ended in a big crash on the front straight. The team repaired the No. 57 so it could continue to finish 15th, while the 75 finished the race in the garage in 17th.
Liddell: "It was a disastrous outcome for us in so many different ways; it really was a weekend to forget for the whole team. We practiced well and were quickest, but as we had seen at the test several weeks ago when we put on new tires (for qualifying) we completely lost the balance of the car and so we lined up third on the grid for the race.
"It rained hard before the start," Liddell continued, "so the whole field started on wets, and we managed to quickly move into the lead on lap one. We were pretty comfortable out in front and managed to consolidate our lead when it started to dry out and we pitted for slicks, but soon afterwards it started raining hard on the front stretch whilst we were driving around under caution on the back stretch where there was only a sprinkling of rain. Everyone was coming into the pits for wet tires and I was the first car following the safety car into the pits. I felt like I was going pretty slowly around 30 to 40 mph when suddenly the car just aquaplaned and got away from me and I clipped the wall just yards from the start of the pit lane itself. It was an unfortunate error on my part; it probably cost us the win and we have paid a heavy price. I feel really bad for the entire team and the whole program. We were in a good position with a winning car on the day and an unforced error on my part left us down in 15th place. Needless to say I will be giving it my all in these last few races to overcome this setback and finish on top."