Michael Shank Racing returns to Long Beach for Rolex debut (Long Beach, CA) 5 April 06--Michael Shank Racing will head west this weekend for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach as part of the 32nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of...
Michael Shank Racing returns to Long Beach for Rolex debut
(Long Beach, CA) 5 April 06--Michael Shank Racing will head west this weekend for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach as part of the 32nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach event. Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson will partner in the Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley for what many expect to be a tough street fight as the Rolex Sports Car Series stages its first-ever street-circuit race.
Michael Shank Racing has experience racing on the streets of Long Beach, having scored a pole position in Champ Car Atlantics competition on the tight street circuit, but with a different layout and a different race car, the challenge will be a new one for the team. With concrete walls lining the way around the 1.98-mile track for the twenty-six car field, the racers will not only have to deal with fighting one another, but they will also have to balance setting fast lap times with avoiding any contact with the ever-present walls.
"It is going to be a challenge for everyone to just finish this race," said team owner Mike Shank. "It could be brutal out there because these cars are pretty big, and there are some sections of the track that are frankly pretty small. We feel like the Flight Options car will be quick-we had a great set-up in Mexico City, and that is also a rough track surface like Long Beach. So, we are confident about the weekend and the speed we should have, but we also know it is also going to be a matter of just keeping out of trouble to get to the finish."
Negri last raced at Long Beach in 1999 in Indy Lights competition, taking seventh at the finish after starting from fourteenth. Negri had earned the spot in the race by winning the PanAmerican Indy Lights Championship in 1998, and is excited about taking to the track in the bright orange and black Flight Options machine.
"It was a different track layout back then, so I will be learning the track just like a lot of the other guys, but it's going to be fantastic to run there," said Negri. "I am pretty confident about the weekend-we have been around the top of the time sheets every session this season, and it will just be a matter of staying out of trouble to get a good finish, because the race is going to be very short, and hopefully there won't be too many caution periods."
With several significant tracks already checked off his to-do list, Patterson will be adding to his list of famed venues that he has raced on this weekend at Long Beach, and the South African knows that the tight confines of the track will mean that trouble will likely never be more than a few inches away all weekend.
"With a track that is less than two miles long, it works out to be a car about every 135 yards, but Rolex racing often means there is a car in your face, up your pipes, and inside your passenger door," said Patterson. "And that's on normal tracks, not street layouts with no run-off. So this should be quite interesting. The year-to-date points standings are jumbled up depending on who was lucky when, so everyone will be trying to assert themselves again this weekend. Hopefully this race will be as clean as possible, and with the sprint format, Long Beach is likely to produce even more exciting racing than usual."
With a healthy entry list, a field full of hungry and talented drivers, and some closely-matched competition, the Rolex Sports Car Series is well-placed to introduce its signature close-quarters racing to an entirely new and enthusiastic group of race fans this weekend. Michael Shank Racing will have one practice session on Friday in advance of the afternoon qualifying session, with the race slated to get underway at 4:00 local time on Saturday.