Allmendinger and Wilson to race Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing
(Homestead, FL)- 6 December 05-- Michael Shank Racing announced today that Champ Car World Series standouts and RuSPORT teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson will co-drive with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri in the forty-forth running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona this January 26-9. The foursome will utilize a Lexus-Riley combination, and the race will be the first Rolex Sports Car Series start for both Allmendinger and Wilson.
Michael Shank Racing scored fourth in the Daytona Prototype class in the 2004 Rolex 24, but the effort to improve on that result in 2005 was thwarted by an engine problem late in the night, leaving the team hungry to score a strong finish in 2006.
"It's really exciting for the team to have guys of AJ and Justin's caliber join us for the Rolex," said team owner Mike Shank. "We are really excited about the full 2006 season with both our cars, and hopefully we can get the year started off on the right foot with a good run in the 24."
Wilson raced for Minardi F1 and Jaguar Racing before moving over to the Champ Car World Series, breaking through for a win at Toronto this season. Wilson has experience in endurance racing as well, scoring a podium finish with co-driver Tomas Enge at Magny Cours in FIA GT competition in 2001. Wilson made his Le Mans 24 debut in 2004, carding the fastest race lap in Jan Lammers' 'Racing For Holland' Dome/Judd behind the dominant Audis. The tall Englishman also has two starts in the Sebring 12 Hour event, famously moving up from fifteenth to seventh on the opening lap in 2004.
"I am excited about racing at Daytona, it's just one of those big races that every driver wants to win and I think being there with Mike Shank and his guys is going to be a good situation," said Wilson. "This is going to be a completely different experience of course from running in Champ Car, where everything is focused on just one driver, one car. But, for this race you have to make compromises with the other drivers and your role is different, trying to get the car so that everyone can be fast, not just you. I really enjoy that challenge and I think it's going to be a good experience to do that with AJ because we already work well together at RuSPORT, even if we are always trying to beat each other come race time, and now hopefully we can work together and share a win."
Wilson has been keeping an eye on the Rolex series races this season, and is looking forward to participating in the 'Super Bowl' of road racing this January.
"Racing against so many other good drivers from all sectors of the sport also really adds to the appeal for me," said Wilson. "I watched the race in Mexico City, and had seen some of the races this season, and I was surprised at how competitive it is, so I know it's going to be an exciting race."
Allmendinger won the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship in record-setting fashion and followed that up with another championship run in Toyota Atlantic competition in 2003 with RuSPORT. The young California native moved up to the Champ Car ranks with the team in 2004, nabbing the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year honors with two podium finishes and scoring five more podium appearances in 2005. For Allmendinger, running an endurance race like the 24 will mark several 'firsts' for him as well as a new chapter in his working relationship with Wilson.
"I have never raced anything that has a roof before, and I know that these cars get pretty hot inside, so it will be a lot different of course from driving a Champ Car," said Allmendinger. "Justin and I get along really well as teammates and help each other out, but the fact is that we are always are trying to beat each other. So this is a great chance to work together, but with the goal of working to beat everyone else and share a win."
Allmendinger's run to the Barber Dodge championship was done in close contact with Michael Shank Racing driver Oswaldo Negri, who was working as a driver coach and test driver for the series at the time. The two have stayed in touch in the meantime, and are relishing the opportunity of racing together.
"It is great to get the chance to work with Oswaldo again," said Allmendinger. "He is a great guy and has a lot of talent, so it is good to see him in a good situation with Michael Shank Racing. It will be fun to collaborate with everyone working on the same goal-to win the race."
The team will announce plans for the second Daytona Prototype and the 2006 season at the Daytona Test Days January 4-7.
Michael Shank Racing was formed in 1989 when Michael Shank first began driving racing cars professionally, taking the award as SCCA-Ohio Valley Region's Novice Driver of the Year. Shank retired from the cockpit in 1997 after moving up the motorsports ladder to focus his efforts on running the team, which quickly found success in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, with several race wins leading Shank to be named as Team Owner of the Year twice in four years. MSR has campaigned drivers including Johnny Rutherford Jr., Kenny Wilden, and 2001 and 2002 Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr. MSR joined the Rolex ranks in 2004, leading the first race it entered and making two podium appearances with drivers Burt Frisselle and Oswaldo Negri, Jr.