It took nearly a decade, but Stevenson Motorsports enjoyed and was able to capture a long overdue first championship in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge this past season.
The question now turns to what the John Stevenson-owned team does for an encore.
After two seasons with the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, the team has been strongly rumored to return to the top level of IMSA, with a full-season WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona program on the cards.
Sportscar365 understands the team is close to finalizing a program with an existing manufacturer, rumored to be Audi, with the effort due to be announced in the next several weeks.
Stevenson was last a regular in the top division of sports car racing with its previous generation Camaro effort, in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT class in 2013.
“Right now we don’t have a confirmed program for next year,” team manager Mike Johnson told Sportscar365.
“We won’t be at the (November) Daytona test. We’re just in that negotiation process with manufacturers, to see where we want to be.
“We’re definitely going to be in IMSA. Stevenson will definitely be at Daytona (for the Roar), and the Roar would be our first test, but we haven’t made a firm commitment on what yet. It’ll depend on what’s best for our program.”
In looking back though on its triumph in the Continental Tire GS class this year, the team enjoyed a near-perfect campaign with its title-winning No. 6 crew.
Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, along with the entirety of the team’s pit crew, maximized the performance of Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R throughout the campaign, despite a most-of-season straight-line speed deficit.
The pair finished in the top-five in each of the 10 races, posting four wins, and completing every lap.
The effort was made all the more remarkable because for once, there wasn’t a usual one-off disastrous result that could have sabotaged their season.
“It was a long time coming,” Johnson said. “What it meant, more than anything, was that the only way to win and podium was to maintain track position, since we were lacking in straight llne speed.
“Our only way to do that was through great strategy and great pit stops. It was such a huge advantage for us.”
Liddell summed up the year simply, “We’ve had a flawless season in terms of preparation, and the execution of the team has been phenomenal.”
Added Davis, “We pushed through that adversity. Let’s just say we had a poor handling car in the straights. We knew there would be certain tracks where we weren’t fast.
“Keeping the mentality of the team positive was tough at times to be honest. It felt like the whole world was against us. But we’ve worked together for so many years, focus on the task at hand, and we did it race by race.”
The underlying pace advantage the Rum Bum Racing team had with its Porsche 911, particularly at Circuit of The Americas, made Davis and Liddell’s win there all the sweeter.
“COTA we shouldn’t have won but we got up front,” Johnson said. “The 13 car was running us down, and they would have passed us before it broke down. But we still had position on the Mustangs and Zs that were quicker.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the guys, as we don’t get that in sprint racing as much. They know how they perform during those 30-second pit stops.”
Johnson praised all four drivers, particularly new recruit Lawson Aschenbach, who joined the existing trio of Davis, Liddell and new record polesitter Matt Bell.
“Whoever comes into the second car has an uphill battle, since Andrew and Robin have had five of eight years together, and Matt’s been here since 2010,” Johnson said.
“There’s a great foundation of doing things the way we do. Consistency from our crew has been one of our strengths. Lawson did a great job of doing the job he was hired for.”
In an ideal world, the plan would be to retain all four of the same drivers into 2016.
Johnson also reflected how much the title meant to John and Susan Stevenson.
“More than anything, I’m so happy for John and Susan. It’s overdue. Deserved. Earned. Not given,” he said. “I think for any team to put a run of solid finishes like this, puts together a run of success.
“They’ve been such loyal owners and customers to GRAND-AM and IMSA, and have never given up, so they knew all the pieces were there.
“We just had to avoid the bad races that doomed our championship hunt in the past.”