Rolex 24 At Daytona Preparation... Then And Now
Robin Liddell will be joined behind the wheel by John Edwards, Jan Magnussen and Tom Milner – the latter two longtime Chevrolet factory drivers.
Mike Johnson literally didn't know what he didn't know when he took his Archangel Motorsports Services team to the 2001 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Amazingly enough, the Nissan Lola and lead driver Andy Lally won the SRPII class. A year later, with different drivers, the team finished a heady sixth overall.
The most telling statistic – comparing today's Rolex 24 with that of a decade ago – is competition. Johnson's cars finished 56 and 46 laps behind the race winners. Last year's sixth-place car was four laps off the pace; a single lap behind in 2011.
"Winning cars aren't breaking like they used to," said Johnson, team manager for Stevenson Motorsports' GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT class No. 57 Camaro GT.R in explaining how a less competitive but steady drive once translated into a podium finish – or better. "You could put together a good effort and hope to win. Problems would come and go and you'd deal with them.
"Now, we go fully prepared for everything that's possibly going to happen. You're constantly testing; practicing things in the shop. In 2001, we didn't even have spare parts."
The Stevenson Camaro finished fourth in GT in last year's Rolex 24 behind a trio of Porsches. Stevenson Motorsports and driver Robin Liddell were second in points in the 2012 Rolex Series GT championship, with three victories.
Stevenson's four drivers ranked seventh among GT entries during the recent Roar Before the Rolex 24 test with a fast lap of 1:50.298 seconds, 93.782 mph over the 12-turn, 3.56-mile speedway road course. Johnson said it's where the team expected to be versus rivals Porsche, Ferrari and Audi.
"The Pratt & Miller cars are good in braking; very good in the infield but we've got so much more car to push through the air [on the oval]," he said. "We have to be sure our car is good where the car can be good.
"We have to get in the lead early and stay in the lead."
This year Liddell will be joined behind the wheel by John Edwards, Jan Magnussen and Tom Milner – the latter two longtime Chevrolet factory drivers. Both Magnussen and Milner have Le Mans 24 Hour victories. Milner is the 2012 American Le Mans Series GT champion.
"Having four superstar drivers is the key," said Johnson. "When they get to their third and fourth drivers, we can pounce on the competition and take the lead. At the sixth to 10th hour mark, our job is to drive away."