VIR: Michael Shank Racing preview

Michael Shank Racing looking ahead to VIR return with Negri and Patterson (Alton, VA) 19 April 06--When Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri started talking with each other about racing in the Rolex Sports Car Series last year, they decided that...

Michael Shank Racing looking ahead to VIR return with Negri and Patterson

(Alton, VA) 19 April 06--When Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri started talking with each other about racing in the Rolex Sports Car Series last year, they decided that the best thing to do would be to make a handful of starts with Michael Shank Racing in 2005, just to see how things would go before dedicating to a full-season effort.

With three top ten finishes from five races, including a podium result with third place at Watkins Glen in September, their exploratory run was the envy of many full-time competitors, and it wasn't a difficult decision to go all in, as Negri and Patterson signed on with Michael Shank Racing for the full 2006 and 2007 seasons.

The momentum didn't drop off one bit as the 2006 season got underway, with the pair teaming in the Flight Options Lexus-powered Riley with Champ Car drivers Justin Wilson and A.J. Allemendinger to score second place in the season-opening 44th Rolex 24 At Daytona. Now, Patterson and Negri are ready to take on one of the tracks that they experienced last season in the VIR 400.

Last year at VIR, Patterson started from nineteenth on the grid (the full-time entries occupied the front half of the grid after the field was set by points), and even though it was his first run in Daytona Prototype on the challenging 3.27-mile road circuit and a steady rain fell, Patterson moved smartly up into the top ten before handing the reigns over to Negri, who was well-placed for a strong run to the finish. However, two spinning GT cars put paid to any podium aspirations, as Negri was forced into the wet grass to avoid the pair, costing him two laps to the leader before he could rejoin the field.

But pace has never been a problem for Negri, and he motored back up the order from twenty-seventh to take tenth in class at the finish. As he and Patterson now prepare for this weekend's VIR 400, the two are looking forward to racing on a high-speed track where they already have lots of laps.

"We had a strong result here despite everything that happened," said Negri. "But we know we were fast enough to have finished much further up the order, so we are hoping to kind of get one back from the track this year. We've been on or around the top of the charts in every session at every track this season, and know that we should be good here again at VIR. This is just a fantastic place to be racing, because we get the chance to let the Lexus motor stretch its legs on the long straights, and Michael Shank Racing always has a good road course set-up."

Even though he took up the sport later than his driving partner, Patterson has shown remarkable pace every time he has strapped into the Flight Options machine, and the South African is relishing the chance to race at VIR after impressing in his first-ever street race just two weeks ago.

"Racing at a track like VIR is what the Rolex Series is all about-it's a tremendously challenging track with some slower corners that require a careful hand, as well as some very fast transitions that reward a lot of courage and entry speed," said Patterson. "Coming off of a fifth place finish at Long Beach, we feel like we are clicking well as a team and with great set-ups, a well-prepared car, and quick pit stops, we know that we are absolutely a threat every race weekend."

The three-hour VIR 400 will be broadcast LIVE on Speed Channel starting at 1:00 PM EST.

-msr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Justin Wilson , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Mark Patterson , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing