Austin, Texas (17 September 2016) – After showing impressive speed at the iconic Circuit of the Americas throughout a weekend that saw blistering hot weather conditions, a return to the podium was thwarted by contact made to the No. 60 Honda-Ligier mid-way through the Lone Star Le Mans event.
Looking to make the most strategic approach to deal with the intense Texas heat during Saturday’s 2 hour and 40 minute race, the Shank squad opted to have Ozz Negri open the race, turn the car over to John Pew for the middle segment, and then have Negri return to the car for the anchor stint.
Since Negri did not qualify the car on Friday, he opened the race from behind the PC field, per IMSA rules. He made quick work of moving forward and had passed every PC car within the first three laps of the race.
With just over 30 minutes completed in the race, Negri had improved to fifth overall when a full course yellow was displayed. The team utilized the caution period to bring the car to pit lane for fuel, tires, and a driver change with Pew taking control of the No. 60.
Upon the restart, Pew was set to keep the car in prime condition through his stint in order to position Negri well to take the Honda-Ligier to the finish. But once the green flag flew, the No. 60 machine suffered contact from the No. 0 DeltaWing, which sent it off track.
Without significant damage to the car, Pew went to return to the track only to have one of the sign boards stationed along the circuit become lodged on the windshield, therefore blocking his line of sight.
“I’ve never had that happen before, but I was just glad that I didn’t hit the wall,” said Pew. “I figured the sign would just fall off, but it wouldn’t, it just stuck there. I tried going back and forth to shake it off, then I couldn’t see, so even though everybody had gone by, I couldn’t go out on the track to try to shake it off, because I didn’t know where I was! So unfortunately I had to wait to have someone come take it off. And then to top it all off, we ended up with a flat tire and I had to pit for a new tire!”
Though the No. 0 received a drive through penalty for the contact, the damage was done for the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing machine with the time spent stationary on track followed by the ensuing pit stop causing the car to fall three laps down to the leaders.
“It was looking promising, with everything that happened, I pushed very hard to get through the PC cars at the beginning of the race and I got through them,” offered Negri. “After that, I killed the tires a little bit so I had to back off and then go at it again. We came to the pits in P5 and unfortunately we got turned around coming out of Turn 1 when John (Pew) was in the car which wasn’t good. When I got back into the car with about 45 minutes to go, we had the same pace as the No. 31 car (that finished second). So I felt pretty good about the pace of the car. If it’s any consolation, we’ve moved up a spot in the championship.”
With the result, Michael Shank Racing advances to fourth in the provisional IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Class standings.
“It’s too bad about the outcome today because John (Pew) didn’t choose to get turned, it’s a bummer,” said Team Owner Mike Shank. “Ozz (Negri) got up to fifth in the beginning and the car had enough pace to be in the top-three for sure. We just needed some placement, but it didn’t happen today. I think we’ll be good at Petit. We’ll now focus on that as our last race in Prototype for a while. We look forward to having (Olivier) Pla back on the team. Hopefully we can end this era for our team on a high note.”
Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will make its 250th car start at Petit Le Mans with Pew and Negri joined by Olivier Pla for the 10-hour season-finale enduro. The previous outing for Pew, Negri and Pla in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen saw the trio take a podium finish of third.