Michael Shank Racing looking to Laguna (Columbus, OH) 3 May 06-- Michael Shank Racing will head to the Monterey peninsula in California this weekend for the U.S. Sportscar Invitational as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will play host to the ...
Michael Shank Racing looking to Laguna
(Columbus, OH) 3 May 06-- Michael Shank Racing will head to the Monterey peninsula in California this weekend for the U.S. Sportscar Invitational as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will play host to the Rolex Sports Car Series for round six of the 2006 season. The team will once again campaign a two-car entry, with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri sharing the No.60 Flight Options Lexus/Riley, as the No.6 Mears Motor Coach Lexus/Riley entry will be shared by Mike Borkowski and Antoine Bessette, who is making his first start in the category.
As the team readies for round six, several storylines have developed for the Ohio-based race team.
Negri and Patterson, one year on...
Last season, the Laguna Seca round marked not only the debut of the Rolex Sports Car Series on the famed Monterey area track, but it was also the first race for Patterson and Negri together in the Daytona Prototype ranks as the two teamed up with Michael Shank Racing using a rented Lexus-Riley combination.
Negri responded to the opportunity by setting a new track record with a blazing 1:24.357-second lap of the 2.238-mile circuit to put the rented race car on pole. The two finished ninth in the race, and went on to take third in just their third race together at Watkins Glen a few months later as the two contested a limited 2005 schedule.
Heading into the Laguna Seca round, the duo has added three top-six finishes including a strong second place in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona to their record so far this season, confirming the promise the two showed one year ago.
"Even though it was just our first start together, we felt as though with Mike Shank and his team we had a shot at a good result," said Patterson. "And then Oz goes out and puts the thing on pole! That was a good first impression for us to make, and now we've been on every step of the podium except for the top one, and that of course is a big priority for us."
The Flight Options machine has been on or near the top of the timing sheets during every session of the 2006 season, as the Lexus/Riley combination gels well with Negri and Patterson, who work with Michael Shank Racing engineer Dave Kanning to find the best possible set up for the car.
"As much as we strive for a win, we are really focused on the championship," said Patterson. "We haven't been as consistent with our finishes as we'd like, but we certainly have been right where we want to be speed-wise everywhere we have been. Laguna Seca is just one of several great racetracks on the Rolex schedule. I've driven it many times, in several different race cars, and it's completely unlike anything else. I can't wait."
The Flight Options machine clocked the fastest lap of the race weekend two weeks ago at VIR, and the team is looking to keep that kind of momentum up this weekend.
New face joins MSR
Canadian racer Antoine Bessette has signed to race with Michael Shank Racing for the Laguna and Phoenix rounds of the Rolex Sports Car Series after testing with the team at Virginia International Raceway. Bessette, who tied with Katherine Legge for third in the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship and scored two wins on the season, was up to speed quickly this Monday as he tested at Miller Motorsports Park
"He did a great job, and worked really well with Mike (Borkowski), so we are really encouraged about the Laguna weekend," said Shank. "Antoine had no problem learning the track and getting up to speed even though it was just his first full day in a Daytona Prototype. The Miller facility is just amazing, and the test there will certainly help us when we come back in September."
Points battle still the focus as qualifying races giving Michael Shank Racing extra opportunity to move up during West Coast swing
The U.S. Sportscar Invitational is the first of two west-coast events for the Rolex Sports Car Series, as the series will move to Phoenix for the Gainsco Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on the weekend of May 11-13. Both events will utilize the qualifying race format, providing the team with the possibility of significant upward mobility in the points standings.
The debut of the Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying races saw the Michael Shank Racing entries score sixth (Negri) and tenth (Borkowski) in the half-hour sprint race on Saturday at VIR. The No. 6 Mears Motor Coach car of Borkowski and Paul Mears suffered a drivetrain problem that kept the team from scoring the points they were looking for in the feature race, moving the entry to thirteenth in the team championship battle.
The thirteenth place finish for the Flight Options machine of Patterson and Negri in the feature race wasn't what the team had been hoping for after running between P2 and P6 for half the laps before a flat rear tire forced an unscheduled pit stop. Despite this, the No. 60 machine still emerged from the VIR weekend ninth in the team standings.
Speed Channel will carry the race live starting at 3:00 PM ET on Sunday.