Detroit, Mich. – Michael Shank Racing did not have the weekend the team was hoping for in the Detroit Grand Prix for Round 5 of the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.
The team now looks forward to the home race and the Diamond Cellar Classic at Mid-Ohio in two weeks’ time. The race’s opening lap saw fierce fighting within the tight confines of the Belle Isle street circuit.
Gustavo Yacaman, piloting the No. 6 Ford-Riley for Michael Shank Racing, was engulfed in a battle with the championship leading No. 01 entry, and the latter car made contact with the outside tire barrier, sending the vehicle into the path of an unsuspecting John Pew, behind the wheel of the No. 60 Shank machine.
The unavoidable, but heavy, contact ended the No. 60’s day before it had even begun—a disappointing result for Pew, who qualified less than a second off the pole winner’s time, and co-driver Michael Valiante, who never had a chance to drive during the race.
“I just came around, fighting and everything, minding my own business, around the bend and the No. 01 was there,” said Pew. “Just like that, not even half a second. I didn’t even know who it was, it happened so fast. I feel bad for those guys too. I don’t know how it happened, but it messed up both of our races. I’m really sorry for the team because we had a great car today.”
Yacaman was called into the pits for a stop and hold penalty, rejoining the field just ahead of the leaders. Reflecting the strong race day pace of the Michael Shank Racing entries, Yacaman held court ahead of the leaders and clawed back a lot of track position with his outright pace.
“Well, we had the incident with Memo (Rojas) that definitely hurt our race” said Yacaman. “From where I come from, that incident would not have been a penalty, but the officiating is different in this series, and I guess I just have to adapt the way I drive to the way they officiate in GRAND-AM.
At the end of the day, I had a good stint—I was quick, I think I had the quickest lap that first half of the race. But overall, I was happy with my performance, and I still think that I didn’t make a mistake and that it was just different officiating. So it’s a shame for the team.
They made a really good effort to give us a quick racecar. We struggled a little bit in qualifying but were able to figure it out before the race. We just need to put all of this behind us and focus on Mid-Ohio.”
Antonio Pizzonia looked to make up the ground lost in the opening stages of the race as he climbed behind the wheel during a pit stop at halfway.
A full course caution helped reset the field with the No. 6 on the lead lap, and just as the experienced Brazilian was in the thick of a lead pack fight, he was spun after contact from behind, costing a shot at the South American duo continuing their upward progression in the results so far in 2013.
“The whole weekend was pretty difficult for us,” said Pizzonia. “We struggled with the car during the first two sessions and qualifying, but the team did a great job improving the car a lot for the race.
Unfortunately we got a penalty, but we managed to get back. In the end I think I had a pretty good car and a pretty good pace when I got hit. It’s a shame really, the second time this year. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again—it just destroyed our race.”
With the race taking place in Ford’s home town, the weekend was packed not only with on-track action, but also a bevy of VIPs and guests visiting the popular team. While the on-track results were not what Michael Shank Racing had been targeting, the weekend still created a range of positives for the team.
“It was a bad race for us, but there’s actually good things that happened this weekend and I’m really proud of how the guys took the cars from being just OK to being really good by the time the race came around,” said team owner Mike Shank. “Gustavo had a fantastic drive. He came out of the pits after the penalty almost a lap down and he pulled a gap to 5 or 15-seconds at the end of his stint.
“There’s nothing John (Pew) could have done, but he improved so much from last year and, as usual, Valiante was a part of that progression and I just feel horrible that we couldn’t give Valiante over three races any better result or opportunity,” said Shank.
“But he did exactly what I knew he’d do, and I’m grateful for that. The takeaways are that the cars are good, the guys worked their butts off, we had some highs and lows and we’ve got to move on to the home race. We can’t be more excited about our new sponsor and getting to go race at the home track in just two weeks.”
Michael Shank Racing