Michael Shank Racing (MSR) emerged from a two-day test at Watkins Glen this week with a new sense of confidence as the team prepares for the upcoming rounds of Rolex Sports Car competition. The Ohio-based team, which moved to within just four...
Michael Shank Racing (MSR) emerged from a two-day test at Watkins Glen this week with a new sense of confidence as the team prepares for the upcoming rounds of Rolex Sports Car competition. The Ohio-based team, which moved to within just four points of the championship lead after the Phoenix race in April, is now preparing for a different kind of race track, as the next two rounds, at Mont Tremblant in Canada, and the Glen, are both natural road courses, and will require a different approach to be quick.
MSR's Lexus-powered Doran combination has certainly proven to be competitive on the oval-based road courses, but award-winning team owner Michael Shank believes that the next two rounds will give the team their best chance yet.
"The Lexus-Doran package is really strong on these longer tracks," said Shank. "The Lexus really likes to stretch its legs, and that's going to be important as we race through the summer. We focused a lot on our race-simulation runs, and despite getting rained out for most of the first day, we accomplished a lot. Burt and Oswaldo both did a great job here, as neither had raced here before, so that was a big benefit of the test to get them some seat time at this track."
Ever the racer, Shank was wishing the team had even more time on the track.
"They had to pretty much chase us down to get out of there at the end of the day!"
The next two races will not only be on different types of tracks, but they will also be a different format. The Homestead round, where MSR scored a podium finish, and Phoenix, were both 250-mile Œsprint' events, but the next two rounds will be 6-hour endurance tests, and the team has that in mind as well. MSR, which has a long history of success in the sprint environment of the Toyota Atlantic Championship, has proven that it can adapt well, as the team has scored strong results in the sprint events as well as the grueling season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"We did get some fast lap times in on the day, but what was most important was that both drivers had no problem running consistently fast times from the beginning of their stint to the end, and that's really going to be what counts for these longer distances, having a car that can crank out solid laps times over the race distance," said Shank.
Driver Oswaldo Negri shared Shank's enthusiasm after the test.
"The biggest thing for us was being able to be consistent, and get the car set up so that we can count on running fast laps all the way through the fuel load as well as still be quick as the tires lose grip, and I think we made a lot of progress on those things," said Negri. "We have been fast so far this season, but I think our overall consistency has been what has kept us from maybe finding a win, so we are really encouraged about the next few races!"
Based in Columbus, Ohio, MSR 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.