Michael Shank is being called something he hasn’t been in a long time: a rookie.
While Shank is a veteran race team owner, he’s never fielded a team before in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That is, until this year, where Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will support a car in the LM P2 class
“There are 23 cars in the LMP2 class, and two of my three drivers are rookies at Le Mans, so we’re keeping expectations maintained,” Shank said. “We’re going to try not to make any mistakes and see where that puts us.
“We’re going to be as competitive as we can be – trust me, we’re going to push! – but we want to focus on minimal mistakes from the team and the drivers and keeping the car running. We’re throwing everything at it.”
“Throwing everything at it” means using the same No. 49 Ligier JS P2 Honda that won for Tequila Patron ESM earlier this year at both Daytona and Sebring. Drivers will be Ozz Negri, John Pew and Belgian driver Laurens Vanthoor.
“The biggest challenge will be every day when we go to the track,” Negri said in a media release. “Every day will be a new experience for me. I’ll try to enjoy it the best I can.
“I can’t deny that my focus is 100-percent here with IMSA – I want to win races with John – but we want to represent IMSA well at Le Mans and do well for Honda and our American fans. I’ve never been there, and everybody keeps telling me it’s gigantic.”
Pew, meanwhile, missed the WeatherTech Championship race at Detroit last week to join the MSR crew at Le Mans for Test Day on June 5.
“It was great to get my laps in,” Pew said. “It is a cool track and there is so much to it – eight miles! Even with the simulator work and all the in-car video we studied, there is a lot to learn so I was happy to get as many laps in as I did.”
That occurred, even though the Ligier suffered heavy damage in an incident later on Test Day. However, the team scrambled to repair the damage the following day at the nearby Onroak Automotive facility and returned to test one day later at the Le Mans Bugatti test track.
“This was another outstanding effort from my guys,” Shank said. “Everyone rallied to do what they could to keep moving the ball forward. We’ve had great support from the Onroak guys.
“We were fortunate not only to have Ozz jump out of the car okay (after the crash), but also to look at the bright side, a lot of what we had to replace from the crash were things we had already planned on replacing for the race.
“So it added more work for us, but we were able to handle it without having to go all night or anything like that.”
Shank may have an ace up his sleeve when it comes to potentially having a strong debut at Le Mans: MSR’s minority partners, Curb/Agajanian, were part of the ownership team that saw Alexander Rossi win the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 last month.