Mexico City: Michael Shank Racing qualifying report

Michael Shank Racing rebounds from setback to make Mexico City grid Patterson sets strong time despite having first sat in the car just moments before qualifying... (Mexico City, Mexico) 3 March 06--After getting off to a flying start in...

Michael Shank Racing rebounds from setback to make Mexico City grid

Patterson sets strong time despite having first sat in the car just moments before qualifying...

(Mexico City, Mexico) 3 March 06--After getting off to a flying start in Mexico City and leading both opening practice sessions on Thursday, Michael Shank Racing had a very difficult Friday. In the early moments of the morning practice session, a pit lane track marker was knocked by another car into the path of Oswaldo Negri in the middle of the circuit's fastest corner, and lodged itself under the Flight Options machine, robbing Negri of any ability to steer and sending him into the wall at a high rate of speed.

The Michael Shank Racing squad is one of the most organized, efficient, and hard working crews in the Rolex ranks, yet the accident caused significant enough damage to the Flight Options Lexus/Riley that the car was determined not to be repairable in time for Saturday's race. Fortunately, Negri escaped harm in the incident, but was naturally sore after the high-speed accident.

"The first thing of course was, 'Is Ozz ok?' and then we wanted to know how this could have happened," said Mark Patterson. "I spoke to a GT driver who was just ahead of Ozz when this happened and he saw the piece, which is about three inches high, right on the racing line. Ozz had slowed down to get a run around the GT cars but the Daytona Prototypes have basically no ground clearance, so when he hit the piece, there was literally nothing he could do. The car is virtually destroyed."

The team, which opened the season with a run to second place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, was relieved to hear that Negri was alright, but then disappointed to believe that the race weekend might be over after reviewing the damage.

However, the team was soon experiencing an upturn in emotion as Patterson and Mike Shank quickly approached a competitor to work out a replacement ride for the remainder of the weekend.

"The spirit of competitive camaraderie in Rolex is remarkable," said Patterson. "We were able to secure the use of Brian Tuttle's back up car for the rest of the weekend. Even though the competition is absolutely cut-throat on the track, there is still room for someone to do something this gentlemanly."

The move was magnanimous on Tuttle's part as he and Patterson are not only competitors on the track, but they are also in direct competition for honors for the Jim Trueman award.

And it wasn't only Tuttle who came to the team's assistance as they made the switch from a Lexus-Riley to a Pontiac-Riley combination.

"I have only driven the six-speed Lexus, and the Pontiac uses five gears," said Patterson "Max Angelelli came right over and began to tell me about where I would want to be using each gear around the track-it was very charitable--here is the defending series champion over with me offering some free advice to help get me up to speed with this new car, unbelievable."

Patterson, who had been raising eyebrows along pit lane with his own set of fast lap times in the Flight Options Lexus-Riley on Thursday, was then hustled into the new car as the clock counted down to the fifteen-minute qualifying session.

"We adjusted the belts, the seat, and stuck our number on the side of the car," said Patterson. "I had no idea how the car was going to feel, what the set-up was like, and how the Pontiac was going to be to drive."

Given that he'd just been thrown into the very deep end, Patterson's qualifying performance was remarkable, as he posted a 1:27.8-second lap in his first flyer, and managed to take a half a second off of his time on each of his next five laps to secure twenty-second on the grid for Saturday's race with a final lap time of 1:25.851-seconds.

"I didn't even have a lap timer on in the car, but it didn't matter-I was just trying to be smooth and get a feel for the car and improve a little bit each time," said Patterson. "Of course I know we could have been much more competitive with our own car, but given the circumstances, we are happy to be in the race and will be working on this car to be ready for tomorrow."

For Negri, the accident was a huge disappointment after having set the pace all weekend long and being taken out by something out of his control.

"I'm sore, but I am really just upset about what happened," said Negri. "There was no reason for this to happen, but I guess its just racing and at least we have a car to race tomorrow. Once again, Mark did an amazing job to just jump in that car without knowing anything about it and set some good times. I know Mike and his guys will be working on the car tonight so we have a good feeling with the set up and we should be ok for the race tomorrow."

Team owner Mike Shank has experienced a lot of highs and lows since joining the Rolex ranks in 2004, but never such extremes in just one day.

"I am so relieved that Ozz is fine, but obviously what happened was a huge disappointment," said Shank. "Mark did a really good job in a car he didn't know, and we are glad we get the chance to get some points and race tomorrow, but this is a day we want to forget."

-msr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Max Angelelli , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Brian Tuttle , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing