Justin and A.J. to drive in Daytona 24 Hours

Michael Shank Racing announced earlier this week that Justin and RuSPORT team-mate A.J. Allmendinger will co-drive one of the team's two Daytona Prototypes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on 28-29 January along with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri.

The announcement was made from Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Justin and A.J. met the team and got their first taste of the #60 Flight Options Lexus-Riley car. Both were reported to have got straight down to business, setting competitive times.

MSR was formed in 1989 and has its roots in open wheel racing. It won several CART Toyota Atlantic Championship races with drivers such as double Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr before moving over to sportscars in 2004. The team made its Grand-Am series debut in the Daytona Prototype class in that year's Rolex 24 and scored two further podiums in 2004. MSR's return to the 24 Hour event 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 A.J.'s and Justin's calibre 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."

Although this will be A.J.'s first sportscar outing, it will be another landmark endurance event to add to Justin's racing CV after previous outings in the FIA GT series at Magny Cours (2001), the Sebring 12 Hours (2002 and 2004) and Le Mans 24 Hours (2004).

"I'm 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 good," said Justin. "It's going to be a completely different experience from running in Champ Car, where everything is focused on just one driver, one car. 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 A.J., because we already work well together at RuSPORT, even if we are always trying to beat each other come race time. Hopefully we can work together and share a win."

"Racing against so many other good drivers from all sectors of the sport also really adds to the appeal for me," he added. "I watched the Grand-Am 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."

The pair will have a more extensive test from 4-7 January at the Daytona Test Days, when MSR will announce plans for their second Daytona Prototype and the 2006 season.

-justinwilson.co.uk