Michael Shank Racing Riley Returns to Action at Homestead (Homestead, FL) 1 December 2010- Nearly six months and countless man-hours later, the Michael Shank Racing Ford-powered Riley that was destroyed after being engulfed in flames in the ...
Michael Shank Racing Riley Returns to Action at Homestead
(Homestead, FL) 1 December 2010- Nearly six months and countless man-hours later, the Michael Shank Racing Ford-powered Riley that was destroyed after being engulfed in flames in the closing moments of the Salen's Six Hour at Watkins Glen returned to action on Wednesday at Homestead Miami Speedway as the Rolex Sports Car Series continued to test with the new specification Continental Tire ahead of the 2011 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.
Appropriately enough, the same driver who was aboard the machine when it was sidelined by flames, Michael Valiante, was among the first drivers to take it to the track on Wednesday. While GRAND-AM is not releasing official timing information for the test, the hard work that Michael Shank Racing put into the Riley restoration was on display as the car was right on the pace with Valiante behind the wheel.
"It's great to see the car come back from the fire, and it's even better that it's so quick!" joked Valiante who will also put some laps in behind the wheel of the No. 60 Crown Royal XR on Thursday. "It looks amazing compared to the last time I was in it. Michael Shank Racing really is an incredible group and this is just another example of that to have this car here looking basically like a brand new car. The guys put a ton of effort into this, and it shows."
The pace of the machine in just its first outing confirmed team owner Mike Shank's commitment to bringing the car back to the track as the team used the effort to rebuild the car exactly as the experienced organization wanted to.
"After getting the car completely torn down, we basically started from scratch and had to rebuild nearly everything from the B-pillar on back," said Shank. "Everything from the suspension to the bell housing to all the wiring--everything--was replaced or redone. This team could rebuild a car overnight if we had to, but we took our time on the car. We had the opportunity to do everything right, and to make some improvements along the way. This car is built the way we wanted it to be, and we're very excited about how good a car it is."
It wasn't just the return to the track for the resurrected Riley, as Michael Shank Racing had two Ford-Riley machines in action on Wednesday, with the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley of John Pew and Ozz Negri also right on pace as both Negri and Pew posted competitive times. In addition to working with the new Continental Tire, the team prepared for a variety of new GRAND-AM specification changes for 2011, including continuing to develop the paddle-shifting system on the No. 60 entry.
Negri, who calls Miami home and has two Homestead podiums with Michael Shank Racing to his credit, was relishing the warm-up for the Rolex 24 season-opener as the team continues to pick up pace ahead of the 2011 season after posting its best championship result to date in 2010.
"John has been doing an incredible job-we've been working so hard on our training and using the karting as much as we can and I don't think I've seen him drive with so much confidence like he has been today," said Negri. "For us, we didn't do many changes with set-up, we just kept things consistent and learned as much as we could about the Continental Tires. Being so close to home, this is a special track for me so of course, we want to be ready for the 24 but I can't help think about coming back here again for the race in March as well so we are just filling our notebooks with info to be quick off the truck in March. We still have Thursday to keep working, but I'm really happy with how we've started out today."