The Stevenson Motorsports crew left the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix with their best finish of the season, a solid fourth place with the No. 6 Audi R8 LMS driven by Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis. Also coming off their strongest finish of the season, the No. 9 Audi duo of Matt Bell and Lawson Aschenbach fought their way to a ninth place finish in class.
Playing host to the third round for the GT Daytona category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca put the entire field to the test in some of the closest racing exhibited all year. Racing in front of a home crowd at the Californian, Bell had extra motivation to outpace the competition even with only the LMPC cars and GTD on track at once.
The relatively drama-free two-hour race was only interrupted once for the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GTR encountering an off-track excursion. The Stevenson drivers continued to become more familiar with their new machinery, proving that even with a completely new program, they can outpace plenty of the competition.
Matt Bell continues the tradition of answering your questions for #DriverQnA following the Monterey Grand Prix, providing excellent insight to race fans across the globe!
MB: I think it was a great idea splitting us up, especially considering it was the first “sprint” race of the year. It made it a lot easier to focus on the race you’re in rather than constantly watching your mirrors and dealing with the GTLMs. My only gripe about the race was the schedule. Why IMSA decided to put a support race after the main P/GTLM race eludes me. I have a feeling it has to do with TV time, but I find it disrespectful to put us at a time that would clearly have fewer people left at the track. A wiser decision would have been to swap them and tape delay both races, but I’m not the one making said decisions.
MB: I would absolutely, 100% rather race in the rain than in the heat. The rain is the great equalizer, it brings the whole field together, and values a different set of talents. In the R8, I think my learned skill helps me more in the wet than in the dry, so a wet race is already very welcomed by me. Secondly, the heat brings out many unfavorable characteristics in cars, tracks, and cockpits. Everything from horsepower, to stint length, to track degradation, to the obvious increased cockpit temperatures, suffer dramatically in hundred-degree heat. Give me a rain race, any day!
MB: The endurance races are a lot of fun, but you tackle them in a different way. Quite often, you don’t have to worry about outright speed, you focus much more on consistency. The sprint races, while they still require consistent laps, have fewer incidents to fix competition. Most of the spots you gain or lose are fought for the hard way. Going into Laguna, I had to really pay attention more to ultimate lap time and competitiveness in battling for position.
MB: The battles were fun and frustrating. While it’s always exciting dicing it up with other racers, our car will need some help from the series, both IMSA and FIA, to be competitive with the Porsche. Our car has pretty massive downforce, so higher-speed sections of track, turn 5, turn 9, turn 10, are very good for us. The Porsche has immense power-down capability, and seems to have better gearing for the slower corners. This was frustrating at Laguna since the main straight, one of the few places to cleanly pass, leads from and to some very slow corners. Papis in the #540 was having braking issues, but he didn’t even need to brake late to hold me back– I was too far back from the straights leading to heavy braking corners!
MB: I think we’re all excited to see how our car does at Detroit. We’re definitely all excited to go back to a street course, the track isn’t built like the conventional all-90-degree corners as most street races have. It looks to have a number of higher-speed corners, so we should be alright there. Our issues will come down to how we do in the slower corners, as was our problem at Laguna. We have great braking abilities and have are learning more and more every time out about how to get the car to do what we’re asking of it. We’re cautiously optimistic about our try at Detroit!
Bell’s next race will be at the Chevrolet Sport Car Classic presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers on Saturday, June 4. It will with the GTD category’s first street race of the year and the Stevenson Motorsports team is looking forward to seeing how their Audi R8 LMS race cars handle the track.
DriverQnA with Matt Bell features race-related questions, like above, from the fans using the hashtag, #DriverQnA, on Twitter and Facebook. Fans are encouraged to Tweet or Facebook post their questions throughout the race weekend to see them answered by Matt through the column at Slipstream Network after the weekend has received the checkered flag. Fans can see new posts after each IMSA race weekend at www.slipstreamnetwork.com/driverqna.
PHOTO CREDIT: STEVENSON MOTORSPORTS, TWITTER