The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Daytona International Speedway saw the debut of Chevrolet’s newest race car – the Z/28.R. While the race was not a huge success for the Camaro, Stevenson Motorsports who piloted both Z/28.Rs, emerged from the event with plenty of data and experience.
Matt Bell, driving the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R, opened the 2.5-hour endurance race and suffered a setback in the form of a fuel leak before the Stevenson Motorsports team quickly repaired the issue, refueled, and returned it to the track. Unfortunately it reentered the race eight laps behind the leaders.
“We had a fuel line break free before we could take the green,” said Bell. “This stuff happens when you have a new car. It’s too bad it happened during the race, but you know besides that, the car was great. The handling was there. It’s one of the easiest cars I’ve driven. I kind of treated it like a test session, going out and trying to see what the car would do.”
Andrew Davis, driving the No. 6 Z/28.R, took the green flag and held his place in seventh before he caught the back of the ST field and moved into fifth overall position only 40 minutes into the race.
On lap 21, Davis steered his Camaro in for a driver change and Robin Liddell took the reins.
“I started to pick up some traffic toward the end of my stint, which is fun because you can use that to your advantage,” said Davis of the opening run. “I was trying to get us up into the third position by the end of my stint, but at the same time, my job in the first stage is to just bring the car back to Robin (Liddell) in one piece. I’ve got a big smile on my face though. Being back with Stevenson Motorsports and driving the Camaro Z/28.R is just a blast. We’ve got a good car and the best team.”
The No. 9 car continued on with Bell at the wheel in order to meet the minimum 45-minute requirement to gain eligibility for championship points. Due to an extended yellow flag because of track wall repairs, the team was able to make a fuel stop and driver change (to Andy Lally) under yellow without losing track position.
The Stevenson Motorsports team soon turned their attention back to Liddell as he coasted to a stop near Turn 5 at which point the race ended for the No. 6 car.
“It was a pretty catastrophic failure,” said Liddell. “I jumped out of the car in Turn 5 where we stopped and had a look under it, but all I could really see was a bit of oil under the diff. It went with absolutely no warning whatsoever, nothing, just immediate. I went to power at the exit of Turn 3 and it just, bang, big bang, then something flapping, something not happy back there mechanically, a lot of banging and clattering and that was it.”
Liddell remained optimistic about the experience saying, “The thing was on the restarts I hustled a lot and actually had some really great battles going there. On that last restart, I think I restarted about 13th or 14th and I want to say I got five or six spots by the time I got to Turn 3, which obviously was irrelevant because by the time we got to the exit of Turn 3 I was losing them all. In the end, it’s a new program, still in the developmental stage. The guys have worked incredibly hard just to get the two cars here and actually race this weekend. Sure, we’ve had some problems, but at the end of the day the car basically has performed well.”
The race finished under caution with a final full course yellow.
“The thing that people have to remember is that this Z/28 Camaro isn’t even in production yet,” said Team Manager Mike Johnson. “When we were campaigning the SS, there had been thousands and thousands of them built and out on the street and there had been a lot of development done to the racing car. I think there’s one street car of the Z/28 that exists in the world and they are still working on that. So we’re working hand in hand with them to get the cars, race cars and street cars, performing at the highest level. You know the car did great at the Nurburgring, beating the others by a huge chunk of time. But to make it a real race car that can last two and a half hours versus 11 minutes or whatever the Nurburgring is, it just takes a little bit of time.”