Michael Shank Racing bringing championship momentum to VIR (Danville, VA) 24 April 08 --Entering round four of the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series championship, Michael Shank Racing is looking forward to Sunday's Bosch 250 at VIR after delivering...
Michael Shank Racing bringing championship momentum to VIR
(Danville, VA) 24 April 08 --Entering round four of the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series championship, Michael Shank Racing is looking forward to Sunday's Bosch 250 at VIR after delivering a strong team performance last weekend in Mexico City as both team Ford-Riley entries finished in the top six.
The blue and orange Michael Shank Racing Daytona Prototypes have both started the 2008 Rolex season quickly, going back to the first big weekend of the year, the Rolex 24 At Daytona where the team took pole position with Oswaldo Negri driving the orange No. 60 Ford-Riley as the No. 6 of John Pew and Ian James started alongside in the blue No. 6.
That strong race weekend marked a new level of performance from the Ohio-based team, which has both cars firmly in the top ten championship standings leading into the Bosch 250. A switch to the newest Riley bodywork, teamed with the addition of Roush/Yates-tuned Ford Racing power, should help the team as it hopes to improve on its 2007 VIR results, which netted sixth and eleventh in the all-Daytona Prototype race.
"I think its good we are racing along with the GT cars again at VIR--so long as none of them cause us any grief!" pointed out team owner Mike Shank. "I think having the GT traffic racing out there creates more variables for the drivers and that ends up making for a much better show for the fans. This hasn't always been our most rewarding track, but we were solid here last year and with our Ford-Riley package being so strong everywhere we've gone this season, hopefully we can bring both cars home with good finishes again this weekend."
Last year, Ian James teamed with Burt Frisselle at VIR to bring home sixth at the end of the two and a half hour event. For 2008, the race is stretched to two hours and forty-five minutes long. But no matter the race distance, James will be looking for another strong result as he shares the No. 6 with John Pew.
"We've rolled off the truck with fast cars on both the 'rovals' (Daytona, Homestead) as well as in Mexico last weekend, which was so dusty it was like a temporary street circuit, so hopefully we also have a good starting point with our first natural road course set up this weekend," said James. "I know that racing on back to back weekends is a big challenge with all the logistics involved, but this Michael Shank team is top-notch. As a driver, I really love the chance to race one weekend after the next, so I'm really looking forward to VIR."
The VIR facility is the final Rolex track where Pew, who joined the organization during the 2007 season, doesn't already have a Daytona Prototype start under his belt. Fortunately, Pew has a good idea of what to expect this weekend.
"I only have a few laps in testing in a Daytona Prototype at VIR, so this is going to be a bit of a learning weekend for me and the two-day schedule doesn't give us a whole lot of time out there," said Pew, who has also toured the facility in formula car testing on the North and South courses, but not the full course as well has having competed in Skip Barber competition there. "But I like the track because it has a little bit of everything. Hopefully we can just get up to speed quickly and get the weekend started off on the right foot."
The No. 60 of Patterson and Negri finished eleventh in the event last season before rebounding to take a podium at Laguna Seca. The duo already have one podium to their credit this season and will look to keep the championship momentum going as they enter the Bosch 250 weekend fourth in the championship points standings.
"I think we both like the track," said Patterson in a recent interview with Ford Racing. "We've had mixed results there -- some good, some not so good -- but we both like the track. Oz [Negri Jr.] is one of the fastest drivers in the series on that track. I find it challenging. The long uphill esses at Virginia must be one of the trickiest combinations in the whole series all year-long."
"We didn't quite have a perfect car in Mexico City, but we were still very strong and our results were even better than we hoped for," said Negri. "We were pleased to take a top-five and it would be great to do that again this weekend at VIR. We'll be racing with the GT guys again, and this is a quick race weekend schedule, so it will be different from last year and hopefully both those play into our favor. (Engineer) Dave Kanning and the guys have been working so hard on our set-ups and I'm looking forward to see what we have this weekend at VIR, especially with a little rain predicted for both days."