Contact Dents Honda, Michael Shank Racing Effort in Texas
• Minor impact results in cut tire, unscheduled pit stop
• Tight Manufacturers’ Championship battles continue to season finale
WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Lone Star Le Mans
Circuit: Circuit of the Americas (3.40-mile road course) Austin, TX
Weather: Partly sunny, hot, 90 degrees F
AUSTIN, TX (September 17, 2016) – A strategic approach by Michael Shank Racing to a hot and humid IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas was blunted by mid-race contact that prevented a potential podium finish for the Honda-powered effort.
Starting the two hour, 40-minute contest at the rear of the combined Prototype and Prototype Challenge field so that non-qualifying driver Ozz Negri could start the race, the MSR Ligier JSP2 Honda quickly worked through the PC class entries in the opening laps.
At the 30-minute mark, a full-course caution period allowed Negri to pit and hand over the driving duties to co-driver John Pew for the middle stint. But on the restart, contact with the DeltaWing prototype sent the Ligier Honda off track, where it struck a sign board that then became draped over the windscreen. Pew was forced to stop so that corner workers could remove the sign, and pit to have a damaged front tire replaced.
Although now more than a lap down to the leaders, Pew went on to complete his time behind the wheel, handing back over to Negri for the final stint en route to a sixth-place prototype class finish.
Honda continues to lead the Manufacturers’ Championship in the series-within-a-series Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship, after opening the season with a pair of wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring, followed by a third-place result last month at Watkins Glen International Raceway in New York.
In the battle for the season-long Manufacturers’ Championship, Honda is currently ranked second, with three wins, 17 points out of the lead. Both the full WeatherTech Championship and the four-race NAEC endurance series conclude with the October 1 season-ending, 10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
John Pew (#60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda): “I’ve never had that happen before, but I was just glad that I didn’t hit the wall. I figured the sign [blocking the windscreen] would just fall off, but it just stuck there. I tried going back and forth to shake it off, then I couldn’t see, so even though everybody had gone by, I couldn’t go out on the track to try to shake it off, because I didn’t know where I was! So unfortunately, I had to wait to have someone come and take it off. And then to top it all off, we ended up with a flat tire, and I had to pit for a new tire!”
Michael Shank (team owner, Michael Shank Racing): “It’s too bad about the outcome today. Ozz [Negri] got up to fifth in the beginning and the car had enough pace to be in the top three for sure. We just needed some placement, but it didn’t happen today. I think we’ll be good at [the season-ending Petit Le Mans]. We look forward to having [Olivier] Pla back on the team. Hopefully, we can end this era for our team on a high note.”