Cameron: “Longevity” of GT4 Platform Led to IMSA Return
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

If the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge team Stephen Cameron Racing sounds familiar, there might be a few reasons why.

For one, team manager Stephen Cameron is no stranger to the IMSA paddock, having won the 1991 and 1992 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the Camel Lights class, in addition to 22 Continental Tire Challenge starts of his own.

He also has a few relatives throughout the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock. His brother Rick is the race engineer for the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R., and his nephew is Dane, the 2016 Prototype class champion and current co-driver of the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi with Juan Pablo Montoya.

“I think maybe people don’t realize how long a history we have with the series,” said Stephen Cameron. “I drove for Acura in the Camel Lights prototypes and actually won the 24-hour race at Daytona in that car. Now Dane drives for Acura and Penske. It’s a long journey back to that and Rick is the engineer for the (Spirit of Daytona) team. As a family, we have quite a depth of experience and history with the series.”

While Stephen's driving experience in the Continental Tire Challenge spanned from 2008-11, his team’s doors have been open for business since 1989. Cameron Racing has competed in a variety of racing series across North America – Atlantics, World Challenge, Indy Lights, Historics, to name a few. Yet most recently in the Continental Tire Challenge, the team partnered with Finlay Motorsports, running under the latter’s banner name in the Grand Sport (GS) class in 2011.

Yet Cameron Racing is under its own name this season following a six-year absence from the series.

“Primarily it was the growth of the GT4 series,” said Stephen Cameron. “The drivers that we’re running had been in some World Challenge stuff and we had run in Continental before. The GT4 platform in Continental seemed to be, from a business standpoint, had longevity. There seems to be stability in it.

"That was really the primarily reason to come back to IMSA was because the platform seemed to be something that was going to grow, had some stability and a lot of interest from drivers and customers.”

It wasn’t the smoothest of starts to the season, however, for the New Zealander’s team. For the first two races of the year, the team had to divert from its initial plan to run the new BMW M4 GT4, instead choosing the Mercedes-AMG GT4. The team returned for the third race of the season with its original manufacturer.

“Our plan originally was to run a BMW because we have an association with BMW San Francisco,” explained Cameron. “Because of our sponsorship and our relationship, we had always planned to run BMW, but because there were some difficulties initially with the BMW, we went and ran the Mercedes.

“That worked out really well. In the interim, Mercedes accommodated us and it was a good relationship so we’re happy with that. Obviously now, we’ll continue on with the BMW program.”

In addition to the team’s partnership with BMW, the manufacturer is the perfect choice for Greg Liefooghe and Ari Balogh, co-drivers of the team’s No. 19 race car. This is the third consecutive year that Liefooghe and Balogh have teamed up, running the past two seasons together with BimmerWorld Racing in the Street Tuner (ST) class in a BMW 328i.

“(Greg and Ari) have been involved in our program the last two years (in World Challenge) before we went to IMSA, so we’ve got a good working relationship with both drivers.” said Cameron. “Greg acts as Ari’s driver coach, so we’ve worked a lot with Greg on providing the feedback technically on what we need to do to set the car up.

“For us, it makes that transition pretty easy because we already know what Greg likes. We know how they study the data, we know what kind of driving style they have, so I think that’s made the transition a lot easier than having brand new drivers coming in and try to figure out what they like, how they work with the team and that kind of stuff.”

So far this year, that advantage has delivered results. After a 14th-place finish at the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona in January, the team rattled off two top-10 results – fourth place at Sebring International Raceway in March and eighth place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.

As a result, Liefooghe and Balogh sit seventh in the driver point standings, while Cameron Racing sits sixth in the team standings, 22 points out of the lead in both categories.

“Win the championship,” said Cameron about the team’s goals this season. “Honestly, I think our goal is to try to win some races. I do believe we’re capable of doing that. We had a good result at Sebring – we actually were in second place up until pretty close to the end of the race.

“Greg is fast and capable of running with anybody as far as speed at the end of the race. Ari has worked really, really hard to bring his skill level up. He’s obviously an Am driver, but I think he’s on par with the other Ams. If we just do a good job of pit strategy and we don’t get in trouble, then if Ari can hand off the car to Greg anywhere in the top 10, the reality is then you’ve got an opportunity to try and win the race.”

Cameron Racing will have multiple opportunities to win the upcoming Continental Tire Challenge races at Road America, VIRginia International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, fielding a second car for BMW San Francisco owner Henry Schmitt and another driver to be announced later.

However, the team’s focus returns for the fourth Continental Tire Challenge race of the season at Watkins Glen International next week, which will be the second of two, four-hour enduros on the series’ schedule in 2018.

“I think one of the things that the Continental series has is that the races are long enough, which give you the opportunity to use strategy,” said Cameron. “Generally, if you can play the fuel strategy and the fuel windows correctly, it can put you in a position to vie for a podium or a win. Of course, with Watkins Glen being a four-hour race, there’s more opportunity there then even the shorter races to maybe, if you stay out of trouble, have a chance to podium and potentially win.”

The Continental Tire 240 at Watkins Glen International featuring the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge goes green on Saturday, June 30 at 1:55 p.m. ET. Tickets are available at www.theglen.com. The race can be streamed live on IMSA.tv and a television re-air is set for Sunday, July 8 at 9 a.m. on FS1.

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