MSR looks back at the season to date while looking ahead to a strong debut season finish Columbus, OH (27 July 2004)--Award-winning team owner Mike Shank of Columbus, Ohio took a big gamble during the off-season, making the bold decision to buy...
MSR looks back at the season to date while looking ahead to a strong debut season finish
Columbus, OH (27 July 2004)--Award-winning team owner Mike Shank of Columbus, Ohio took a big gamble during the off-season, making the bold decision to buy a new Daytona Prototype race car and compete in a completely new format, changing gears from the sprint racing format of Atlantic competition that the team had so much success in, to the endurance racing that is the hallmark of the Rolex series.
The decision has paid off, as the team has been in the top five in points the entire season despite not having any experience in the category and working with a limited budget.
The season has provided the team with its share of highs and lows-from the grueling 18-hours of rain in the teams debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where the team led the first lap of Rolex competition for engine supplier Lexus and came home fourth in class after fighting back through the night when mechanical problems caused by the non stop rain crept up early in the event.
The team didn't skip a beat when drivers Burt Frisselle of Hawaii and Oswaldo Negri of Miami joined the squad and were fast right away. Frisselle joined the Rolex ranks as one of the youngest drivers in the field, in just his second season of professional racing after competing in the ultra-competitive Barber Dodge Pro series against drivers like A.J. Allmendinger and Colin Fleming.
He was joined by Brazilian ace Oswaldo Negri Jr., who had finally earned the opportunity his career had been lacking to that point. Negri, who took championships in his native Brazil and on into England racing against guys with names like Barrichello, Coulthard, and de Ferran, brought speed and experience in the Daytona Prototype to the team, having contested a limited schedule of races in 2003. He also brought a wealth of experience developing race cars, as his time in F3 and Indy Lights had led to him being tapped by Barber Dodge and Formula BMW to develop their cars as a test driver.
Eager to show they were well-placed in the category, and working to make the most of the opportunity, the duo scored a coup in just their second race, hustling their way to third place in qualifying and backing that up with a scrappy run to third in the race behind a Michael Shank Racing crew that was adapting quickly to the special challenge of pit stops in sprint-format endurance racing.
The next race in Phoenix didn't deliver the fortune the team had been hoping for, as the team was again quick in qualifying but suffered from contact with another car, which damaged the right rear suspension and prevented the tire from being changed during the subsequent pit stop. This severely compromised Frisselle's last stint and the team had to settle for sixth place.
The MSR crew regrouped for the Mt. Tremblant round, held in the beautiful mountain region north of Montreal, where the team was again quick in qualifying but suffered during the seasons first six-hour event when Frisselle was knocked clear of the track when another competitor made an overly adventurous move to pass, taking the team out of contention for a top-five finish for the second race.
The Glen brought a similar result, with the team once again getting knocked out of contention when a competitor made an ill-advised attempt at a pass, and again thwarted a potential podium finish with the damage in the six-hour enduro.
The Daytona round saw the team once again show strength in the late night race, leaping up to second at the start and running in the lead pack all night until the teams final pit stop, where a balky airgun left the 6 car sitting still just long enough to fall off the lead lap, despite the teams best efforts.
But despite these setbacks, Shank and his crew are firmly confident not only about what the team can do, but also about the decision to go Grand Am.
"Every race we go to, we have what it takes to win, and we know that," says Shank. "When we decided that we wanted to racing Daytona Protypes, that's all we were looking for-a chance to win, and racing here gives us that. We have shown that the guys in the car can bring the speed, and my guys going over the wall do a great job, and we have a great partner powering us in Lexus, so its really just a matter of getting the breaks to go our way.
"It was a big risk I took with my wife when we decided to race here in Rolex, but we are really happy we did," said Shank. "We feel that we can win any race we enter, and that is saying a lot, as the competition here is fierce, and there are some big-budget teams with a lot of experience in this kind of racing, so we are proud of how quickly we have been able to be competitive."
The EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic marks the return of Michael Shank Racing to the legendary track for the Columbus-based team.
Michael Shank Racing was formed in 1989 when Michael Shank first began driving racing cars professionally, taking the award as SCCA-Ohio Valley Region's Novice Driver of the Year. Shank retired from the cockpit in 1997 after moving up the motorsports ladder to focus his efforts on running the team, which quickly found success in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, with several race wins leading Shank to be named as Team Owner of the Year twice in four years. MSR has campaigned drivers including Johnny Rutherford Jr., Kenny Wilden, and 2001 and 2002 Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr.
MSR is making the transition to the Rolex Series from open-wheel competition for the 2004 season in the Rolex Sports Car Series, campaigning a Lexus-powered Doran JE4.