Michael Shank Racing up to speed at Laguna (Columbus, OH) 5 May 06-- Michael Shank Racing was right on pace in the opening practice sessions for Sunday's U.S. Sportscar Invitational on Friday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, posting...
Michael Shank Racing up to speed at Laguna
(Columbus, OH) 5 May 06-- Michael Shank Racing was right on pace in the opening practice sessions for Sunday's U.S. Sportscar Invitational on Friday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, posting competitive times as the Rolex Sports Car Series warmed up for the weekend's two races.
Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri carded the sixth quickest lap of the day in the Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley with a 1:25.084-second lap at Laguna Seca. Negri, who set the qualifying track record for Daytona Prototypes on the 2.258-mile circuit last year, was encouraged by the pace the team has shown straight out of the gate.
"We have a very good car," smiled Negri. "Balanced, good grip, and of course good Lexus power. We ran on old tires in the second session to make sure we have what we need as far as a race set up and when we are running with a full tank, so we know that we should be good in the race on Sunday. We will use the warm up tomorrow morning to make sure we are all set up for the sprint race so we can score some more points and get a good spot on the grid."
Patterson, who has already improved on his times from last year by over a second, will start the Sunday feature race after Negri runs in Saturday's half-hour qualifying race.
The Mears Motor Coach Lexus-Riley of Mike Borkowski and Antoine Bessette, who is making his Rolex debut this weekend, netted a best lap time of 1:25.497-seconds to be within one second of the fastest time of the day.
"Much, much better this afternoon," said Borkowski. "The car had better grip, and I could push harder almost everywhere."
Borkowski had to put his quick reflexes to work in the afternoon session after a GT car didn't see him as the two entered the ultra-fast braking zone for the corkscrew corner.
"He was off line and I thought he was giving me room to make the pass, but I guess he just had no idea I was there, and I had to go four-off to not hit him," said Borkowski. "Thankfully they've made a lot of improvements to this track to make it safer, and I had the room I needed to clear this guy. It was a pretty close call!"
The Mears Machine will see a different driver line up this weekend as young Canadian star Antoine Bessette has joined the squad for the Laguna and Phoenix rounds, and has already impressed many in the pit lane with his cool adaptation to the Daytona Prototypes.
"Antoine has done a really good job for us so far this weekend," said team owner Mike Shank. "This car has double the horsepower of anything he's driven before, but he's taken right to it. It's great for him to be working with a guy like Mike (Borkowski), who is very quick and very experienced in these cars, so he has been able to pick up a lot from him already."
For Bessette, who won two races in Toyota Atlantic competition in 2005, he is focused on getting back to racing action after being on hiatus since the completion of the 2005 season.
"The car is really fun to drive, especially at a track like Laguna," said Bessette. "I am still learning how to get the best lap times out of the car, but I feel really comfortable and the team obviously does a very good job preparing these cars. It's been a little while since I have been in a race, so I am really looking forward to racing again!"
Saturday's half-hour qualifying race will start at 1:00 PM local time, with Sunday's U.S. Sportscar Invitational slated to start at 3:00 PM ET, with Speed Channel carrying a live broadcast.