Forty-five minutes into Saturday’s two-hour IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Lime Rock Park, Matt Bell in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R passed TOTAL Pole Award winner Trent Hindman to take the lead in the Grand Sport (GS) class.
Bell had pitted a few minutes earlier during the race’s first full-course caution and taken on fresh tires, which proved to be the winning move of the race. Bell handed the reigns over to co-driver Robin Liddell with just under an hour left in the race and Liddell drove the new-for-2017 Camaro to the car’s second straight victory of the year, after winning at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks ago.
“The decision to come in when we did under that first caution was really what gave us the win,” said Bell. “We weren’t the fastest car on old tires. Like, lap-for-lap, we just weren’t as fast as the guys around us, so we knew we had to capitalize on good strategy. That’s exactly what happened. For (team manager) Mike Johnson to make that call to bring us in and then another great call which was just to do left-side tires on the second stop were all really good moves because it gave us track position. Not just track position, but it gave us performance when everyone else stayed out on their old tires.
“It was a busy stint for me. For the most part, I can’t be happier with these guys, what they do, how they do it, making great decisions and hopefully they’ll keep doing this and be back on the podium soon.”
It was Stevenson Motorsports’ 15th Continental Tire Challenge victory and the team will look to continue its momentum later today in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Northeast Grand Prix, in which Stevenson fields an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.
At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the GTD team took home the checkered flag less than 24 hours after the Continental Tire Challenge team recorded its win.
“I’d like to think, actually, when we won at Mosport on the Saturday it forced them to raise their game a little bit on the Sunday,” said Liddell. “They were going to be embarrassed there if they didn’t do a repeat. No, the thing is, we’re the best GT team out there. We’ve never forgotten how to win, it’s just a question of getting the car and the crew and everything together. We’ve been able to do it with this new GT4 Camaro. I’m very happy with the car.”
Hindman and co-driver Cameron Cassels in the No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 entered the race as leaders in the GS championship by three points over the No. 76 C360R McLaren GT4 of Paul Holton and Matt Plumb, but both cars struggled on pit stops and finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott, finished second in RS1’s No. 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR for their second straight podium finish, with the No. 33 CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 of Till Bechtolsheimer and Marc Miller in third. Miller overcame a spin by contact late in the race to stay on the podium. The No. 69 Motorsports In Action McLaren GT4 of Jesse Lazare and Chris Green was fourth.
In the Street Tuner (ST) class, polesitter Chad McCumbee and co-driver Stevan McAleer set sail from the start in the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 and collected their third straight Continental Tire Challenge victory at Lime Rock Park. The victory came two races after a crash at Watkins Glen earlier this month.
“Since the incident at Watkins Glen, the guys just haven’t had time to get the car exactly where it needs to be, so they’ve been working their tails off week after week trying to give us something good to drive,” said McCumbee. “We were able to get that ModSpace car in Victory Lane this week. It feels good. It’s been a rough couple months, so to get back to Victory Lane feels good.”
The win marks Mazda’s seventh consecutive ST victory at the 1.474-mile track and comes on McAleer’s 50th series start.
“I don’t know if that means I’m a veteran or just been at it for too long,” McAleer said. “We’re really happy to get it. That’s three years in a row that Chad and myself have won here in a Mazda MX-5. It’s extra special to be in the 50th. That will put us somewhere in the championship fight again. I know the (No.) 56 car had a rough day, so we might be a little closer. We’ll have a look when we get home.”
A pair of Mazdas were set to round out the top three in ST until, with less than 15 minutes left, Britt Casey Jr. got sideways in the No. 27 Freedom Autosport machine while running second. That left nowhere to go for third-place Christian Szymczak in the No. 34 Murillo Racing Mazda. The contact sent Casey’s Mazda back on track, but Szymczak into the tire barriers.
Casey held on for a Freedom Autosport 1-2 sweep with co-driver Matt Fassnacht, while the No. 84 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i of Tyler Cooke and James Clay rounded out the podium.
As was the case in GS, the top two teams in the ST point standings struggled throughout the day. The No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman of Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing were collected in an incident on the first lap of the race and served a drive-through penalty later in the race, pushing the team back to a 10th-place class result.
Derek Jones and Mat Pombo entered the race second in points, but brought the No. 73 MINI JCW Team MINI JCW home in 12th.
The Continental Tire Challenge returns to track in two weeks at Road America on August 3-6. Tickets are available at RoadAmerica.com.