Michael Shank Racing, Acura Find Speed, Disappointment at Road Atlanta

Michael Shank Racing, Acura Find Speed, Disappointment at Road Atlanta
• Andy Lally, Katherine Legge and Mark Wilkins dominate early, leading 145 of 210 laps during first five hours of the 10-hour contest before being eliminated by contact
• Jeff Segal, Ozz Negri and Tom Dyer run laps comparable to the leaders, but retire due to mechanical issues, damage
• Acura NSX GT3 finishes inaugural IMSA season with two victories, four podiums, three front-row starts and one pole

BRASELTON, Ga. (October 7, 2017) – A day that promised much, in the end, delivered little as both Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3s were forced out of Saturday’s season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, a 10-hour contest that concluded the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Both MSR Acuras demonstrated great speed at the challenging Georgia road racing course right from the green flag. Starting on the outside front row, second, Andy Lally took the #93 NSX GT3 to the front of the 17-car GTD category, the largest individual class in the 39-car field. The #93 went on to dominate the first five and a half hours of the race, with drivers Lally, Katherine Legge and Mark Wilkins combining to lead 145 of the first 210 laps.

Punctuated by the first of a series of caution flags that would plague Saturday’s race, Lally extended his opening pair of driving stints through the first two and a half hours, setting the pace for the GTD field. Legge continued that domination throughout her double stint, keeping the #93 Acura at the front throughout her run, as the MSR team also ensured that she was in the lead at the race’s four-hour mark, to earn additional championship points for the “series-within-a-series” Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship.

Legge turned the car over to Acura endurance driver Wilkins, who looked to run a clean and trouble-free stint. He likewise ran at the front of the GTD class prior to a Lap 210 pit stop that saw the MSR team take on additional fuel to place it back on the primary sequence of pit stops. The resulting slightly longer stop caused Wilkins to return to the fray sixth in the GTD order. But contact while attempting to pass another GTD car sent Wilkins and the #93 NSX GT3 hard into the Turn 3 tire barriers and out of the race.

Meanwhile, the #86 Acura NSX GT3 of Ozz Negri, Jeff Segal and Tom Dyer had looked to close out the 2017 season on a high note, featuring the traditional gold-and-black MSR livery. Both NSX GT3s also featured hundreds of fan signatures as a season-ending demonstration of their support.

Starting seventh, Negri ran the first two hours, matching the leaders’ pace, despite twice being knocked off course by contact, then continuing. After Negri turned the NSX GT3 over to co-driver Segal at the two-hour mark, the #86 Acura soon returned to Pit Lane and then went behind the wall for additional repairs. The MSR crew went to work in the garage and completed its work in just 25 minutes, but the time spent behind the wall saw the car fall 16 laps down to the leader.

Once repaired, the #86 NSX GT3 returned to the track, clicking off clean and consistent laps through the driver rotation of Negri, Segal, and Dyer, until the decision was made to retire the car. Ultimately, the #86 Acura was credited with a 12th place result, while the #93 NSX GT3 finished 14th.

The Acura NSX GT3s compete in the GTD class of the WeatherTech series, campaigning against premium automotive brands including Aston-Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. This year’s impressive debut season included four podium finishes, victories at both Detroit and at Watkins Glen International Raceway and three front-row starts, including a pole at Watkins Glen.

Honda Performance Development (HPD), the racing arm for Acura Motorsports in North America, and J.A.S. Motorsport of Italy are now offering the race-winning NSX GT3 for sale around the world for the 2018 season. In addition to its success in the IMSA WeatherTech series, the NSX GT3 also has recorded a victory in Pirelli World Challenge competition this year.

Developed from the production Acura NSX, the NSX GT3 utilizes the production NSX’s ultra-rigid and lightweight multi-material body with aluminum-intensive space frame, which is produced at the Performance Manufacturing Center in Ohio, exclusive worldwide manufacturing facility for the NSX. The 3.5-liter racing engine uses the same design specifications as the production Acura NSX, including the block, heads, valve train, crankshaft, pistons and dry-sump lubrication system. A six-speed, sequential-shift racing gearbox delivers power to the rear wheels.

Saturday’s race concluded the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and the inaugural season of Acura participation in the popular and competitive GT3 category.

Next season, Acura Team Penske will lead the company’s effort in the prototype category, fielding a pair of new Acura ARX-05 DPi machines, which will debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2018.

Video recaps from this weekend’s Acura WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road Atlanta are being posted on the “Honda Racing/HPD” YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found in the 2017 HPD Trackside Video Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.

Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on this year’s inaugural season of Acura NSX GT3 competition: “Today had the makings to be a great day but, as sometimes happens in racing, bad luck and trouble found us. Despite the massive disappointment from today’s result, we have to acknowledge what a great season this was. In our first year of running the Acura NSX GT3, finishing the season with two wins and a second in this super competitive class shows the talent, dedication and teamwork of the HPD staff, Honda R&D, the Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC), Michael Shank Racing and all of the drivers that worked so hard to develop this now-proven, race-winning car. I look forward to continuing success with this vehicle, and can’t wait for the start of next season.”

Michael Shank (owner, Michael Shank Racing) on today’s race: “I just want to say ‘Thank You’ to Acura and Honda Performance Development for all the work they’ve done this year. The #93 was a dominant car. We led 145 laps … it’s tough. We had a plan [to win] and we were sticking to it. We won the first North American Endurance Championship segment at the four-hour mark. We had to square up on strategy on that last stop so that we were all back in sync with everybody and we lost some time, because we had to take a little more fuel than the others. It’s a really tough deal. Unfortunately, we had a couple of issues with the #86 car today that set us back, so I’m gutted for those guys because they had the pace to run with the front runners. But I want to say how proud I am of this Michael Shank Racing group, HPD, Honda, Acura, we showed again today that we were right there.”

Andy Lally (driver, #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “We dominated the first five and a half hours of the race. I’ve never dominated this race like that and I don’t think anyone ever has before. It is sad to end the year like this [with a crash], but, in a way, it was a good statement for Acura. I don’t know that there’s ever been a car in the 20 years of the Petit Le Mans to have a performance like that. I’m glad Mark [Wilkins] is okay and it’s a testament to the safety of the car [that Wilkins was unhurt after his crash]. Mark was driving well, Katherine [Legge] had an amazing stint, and I was having fun out there, too. It’s not the way we wanted to close out the year but thank you to everyone at Michael Shank Racing, Acura, and HPD for a great year.”

Katherine Legge (driver, #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “It is disappointing, I’m gutted. We were having such a good race and it would have been nice to finish on a high note. We kind of did finish on a high note, because we were so competitive – you have to look at the positive. We had a successful year in the debut of the Acura NSX GT3, so this Michael Shank Racing team and everyone at HPD and Acura have a lot to be proud of.”

Mark Wilkins (driver, #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “I’m gutted. This NSX GT3 was the class of the field, we were leading a bunch of laps, so I’m really disappointed for Katherine [Legge] and Andy [Lally]. I was just trying to stay out of trouble and, unfortunately, some trouble found us. I had a few issues with that car and driver for a few of the previous laps and I was trying to play it conservatively. I’m just really bummed for the guys. They’ve worked so hard and have done such a great job all year long.”

Jeff Segal (driver, #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “It’s a really big disappointment. Not only for this race, but to end the season like this is not representative of how close we were and how many times we were right there this whole year. I’m gutted for the #93 team, they had a great race going. We had issues early on that were kind of out of our control and that put us back, and then things kind of snowballed from there. I think we showed a lot of promise this year. We were always close, but never quite right there. I guess this year is the year of unfinished business.”

Ozz Negri (driver, #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “If we hadn’t have had our problem early on in the race [a broken front splitter], we would have been leading the race. It’s tough to take. We put so much into this – the MSR drivers, all of our team guys, HPD, Acura all year long. I have a great team behind me and we came a long way with this car and proved that this is the car to beat. This Michael Shank Racing team keeps mesmerizing me. They are my family … my home. I love them to death. I’m very proud of them.”

Tom Dyer (driver, #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3): “There was so much anticipation for my first Petit Le Mans. There are so many fans and so much support. It’s been an amazing year for the team and for the Acura NSX GT3 in its first season. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be today, and that sometimes happens in this sport. You take the good with the bad and know that you’ll just have to come back stronger. I loved driving the Acura NSX GT3 at Road Atlanta. It’s a great car to drive. All of the cars in this GTD category have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s amazing that the times are so close for how different they are to drive. The Acura NSX GT3 was right on par today. Our sister car led much of the race – we had good pace, we just had some misfortune and that was that.”