Stevenson Motorsports Rolex 24 Q and A

+2013 Rolex 24 is Stevenson Motorsports 106th GRAND AM Race (first Watkins Glen, August 2003)
+Stevenson Motorsports Best Rolex 24 at Daytona Result: 4th place, Rolex GT-2012 and 2010
+2013 marks the team’s 9th Rolex 24 campaign with a total of 13 entries. (2004, 2006, 2007 (2 entries), 2008, 2009 (2 entries), 2010 (2 entries), 2011, 2012 (2 entries), 2013
+ROLEX 24 TV Coverage: SPEED 3:00 PM ET

Video: Tom Milner Talks GT:

(21 January 2013)- Stevenson Motorsports finished second in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Team Championship and fourth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a best-ever team result in the huge event. The team will look to improve on both statistics starting next weekend as GRAND-AM launches the 2013 season with the Rolex 24 At Daytona (SPEED, January 26, 3:00 PM ET). With an international line up of renown talent set to share the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Camaro GT.R, drivers John Edwards, Robin LIddell, Jan Magnussen, and Tom Milner took time to look ahead to the season and to the 24.

EDWARDS: After my injury I missed a couple races and that automatically takes you out of the points for the Drivers Championship because no matter how well the car does, your teammate is always going to be ahead of you even if you guys win every race. So after I came back, my role had changed quite a bit because I was just here to help the team do well in the championship on the car side as well as help Matt and help Robin (Liddell) in GT get up there in the drivers points. This year I’m taking better care of myself and planning to stay in it for the whole season and be there on the podium at the end and hopefully we can come away with a couple of championships.

MAGNUSSEN: I’ve had a lot of good past experience with the team. Both as one-offs here at Daytona and during the 2011 season I did a quite a few races for them. I feel like I know everybody and I know what they are able to do. Especially with the driver line-up we have this year that we have a good shot at it. But it is a 24 hour race and it’s about a lot more than just going fast. But I believe the team has what it takes and I’m looking forward to a problem free run for us. It’s been pretty good.

Tommy and I are in a similar situation where we are here to support the two full time guys. So up until now at the test days we haven’t had much running in the car. The development of the set-up and trying to dial the car in has been left to the two full time guys since they know the car the best. So Tommy and I slot in the best we can and give our feedback and see if we can help the set up a little bit and maybe find some speed in the car. It’s been very quiet and easy going up until now and I hope that if we can carry on like this through the end of the test and start race week like this then we are in good shape.

It’s a different 24 hour race than Le Mans for sure. For one, driving in the dark is a lot longer here – 12-13 hours maybe where at Le Mans it’s only six hours really so that makes a big difference. Also it’s a shorter track than Le Mans but with the same amount of cars, so a lot of traffic! You really rely on the spotter and you have to be cautious the whole time. You really have to know who is coming and who is around you, and in the perfect world, know who is in the car that’s coming. It’s the same for everybody but I do believe the guys that will do that part the best will have the biggest chance of a good result.

MILNER: Daytona is one of those big races that you want to win. I was fortunate in 2011 to get Le Mans which was for me the highest on my list but not far behind is Daytona. That’s really what’s next on my list of ones that I want to win. I grew up watching my dad’s team. I’d stay up until 2-3 in the morning as long as I could stay awake to watch the race on SpeedVision back then. I’ve never really had a lot of success here just basically because of car failures and things like that but last year the Camaro was pretty reliable, we just didn’t have the pace. Stevenson finished fourth last year and they were there and they were in the hunt but again a little bit off the pace. Even so we have a lot of new competition here with the new GT3 cars that have come in are very quick. So far in testing we’re not the quickest again, but we’re making gains for sure. Come race time I think we’ll be in better shape there as far as pace goes. At that point once we’re close on pace we can sort of focus on running a perfect race because that’s what it’s going to take to do well here.

Being an American, driving an American car on an international stage here, with a lot of media – this is a big race around the world. All those things mean a lot and they add value and interest for me, but ultimately when it comes to a race weekend this is no different than any other race weekend. You work with your teammates and your team and try to figure out how to get the car dialed in – it’s just about winning ultimately. Everything we do in practice is about maximizing our package, our car, our team. Every little detail has to be squared away in order to do well. If you concern yourself with all the extra stuff then you can kind of get caught up a little bit in those things so I just focus on myself mostly and make sure I do my job and work with the team to make sure we have a strong team for the race. That’s my main focus and I don’t think about all the other stuff that adds pressure.

Robin Liddell: Our goal is to win the championship. We’ve been doing this for five years with Stevenson and we’ve come close at least a couple of times. Last year we put a really good season together and we just came up a bit short against the Ferrari. I think most people recognized that Ferrari had a bit of an advantage over most of the competition so to come out second actually was a pretty stout performance overall. We didn’t have a perfect season we had a couple of little issues but for the most part it was overall a really good performance by the team and the guys and everything. It went really well. So trying to move forwards from that but at the same time recognizing it’s going to be a big challenge this year again in a different way it looks like some of the new cars that were in it last year that are going to be very strong this year such as the Audi in particular and the Ferrari is certainly going to be strong. For the 24 we’re I think we’re coming here this year with probably the best line up we’ve ever had. It’s a great group of drivers that we have got together.

I think we are going to be strong but it’s a bit of an unknown. You don’t really know until you get to the race how strong you’re going to be. Last year I kind of predicted that the Porsche was going to have a slight performance advantage and in the end that proved to be correct. Basically they finished in the top three and we executed a pretty much perfect race. We were flawless in the race. We had no mechanical problems, no offs or anything, we didn’t lose any time in the pits for any particular issues or anything and we wound up fourth. In a normal year we probably would have won the race but with the performance disadvantage against the Porsche that we had and the strong year generally we just couldn’t do it. So it’s hard to predict and say this is where we’re going to be. I think overall it looks like the Prep 2 cars are slightly getting in a position where they’re going to struggle to compete. I think that’s the issue. We’re waiting to see what we’re going to get in terms of restrictor and basically where that’s going to be. If we’ve got top-speed here then I think we can compete in the 24, if we don’t get the top-speed that we really need then I think we’re going to struggle. Comparing to last year again if we go on that basis, even if we produce a flawless race it’s going to be hard to see how we can win it because the competition is too strong now.

(Liddell on coming back to the team) It’s a weird situation for me because I’ve been with this team now for five years, this is my sixth season. And on the one hand I keep asking myself ‘how long can this really go on for?’ and yet on the other hand I feel completely at home here. If somebody said I wasn’t here it would feel really bizarre. I ask myself the question ‘why am I still here and how is this continued as long as it has?’ and also at the same time it seems completely normal to me because it’s just such a great environment to be in and I do really feel like it’s a spiritual home for me. It starts at the top to be honest. John and Susan Stevenson are really great people and they are a very rare find in motor racing. They’ve got the finances to put a proper program together with a full professional line up and everything else. They’ve got the hunger and the desire to compete and to win. And they’re also fundamentally decent people behind all of that and that combination together I think makes a very rare find. It starts at the top and then works its way down.

Mike (Johnson) I’ve worked with for many years even prior to coming here I worked with him. Having the Pratt and Miller guys on board with the engineering the design and that sort of stuff, again that’s a huge attribute to have. I think I can safely say there’s no other GT organization in this paddock that have the tools available that we have in terms of simulation and all the stuff that is available to us. Nobody else has that at this level in the series. And then the guys – Michael Hoffman our crew chief – he’s really stepped up in the last 2-3 years – never mind the last five years – he’s really stepped up. And he’s demonstrated to me and to everybody that he’s really right up there with the best crew chiefs that I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. Last year we had a flawless car all season. It’s not a Porsche where you can just go buy the parts from the manufacturer and bolt them on. There is a lot sub assembly required and a lot of things that need to be done with this car to get it to where it needs to be for finishing a 24 hour race. To get this car reliable and competitive in a race like the 24 but not just that, throughout the entire season, it’s a great performance.

And we’ve really got a crew of guys working together with him. They’ve all gelled well together. And having this continuity that we’ve got is great. Because it means they all know each other, they’ve worked together a long time, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses – it’s just the right combination and the right way.

And then obviously with the drivers, John (Edwards) had his blip at the beginning of last season. I knew he was quick and I knew he was the right article he was not just fast but he was a reliable driver and had all the right skills from the Mazda when he drove in 2010 in the Mazda when I raced against him. So when he came on board with this I had no doubt he was going to perform very well and he’s certainly proven that. We get along well. We’re almost at two different points in our careers and our lives and sometimes it’s hard to combine that because in a way it’s possibly easier because you’ve got two guys fighting for all the same things the same two young guys fighting or two old has-beens that are trying to survive.

I don’t feel that I’m at the end of my career, but I’m certainly not at the beginning of it and he’s still very much at the beginning. And I really enjoy driving with somebody who is young and talented like he is, because he keeps me on my toes. When they said I was going to drive with him I thought, shit, he’s nearly half my age – suddenly I felt really old! But I do enjoy driving with him because he brings the energy and his youth and his pace. And I like that. It’s important for me in my stage to have somebody who is going to push me because if I became somebody that was just driving around being allowed to look good in an environment which I somehow controlled or I somehow was able to thrive in then that wouldn’t do me any favors in the longer term I don’t think. So I hope by driving with John and us working well together and combining the experience and the pace and the youth and everything else we can actually bring out the best in each other going forwards.

On the line up for the 24:

And then having Tommy and Jan joining – Well Jan I drove with and I really like Jan, I have a lot of respect for him. He is a great guy in and out of the car, it’s hard to overlook how talented the guy was and still is. He’s a great attribute and he’s a good guy out of the car. That’s important. Tommy I don’t know very well but obviously I’ve raced against him a bit and he’s become very accomplished in the Corvette program. I can’t find any aspect of what we’ve got that I’m not happy about and I don’t think is the right thing to have. It’s just whether the series is going to allow us to be strong enough with the package that we’ve got. I think that’s what it’ll come down to.

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