Meyer Shank Racing names pair of 2019 IMSA champions to driver lineup in 2020

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Matt McMurry, who won the LMP2 championship in IMSA in 2019, will join Meyer Shank Racing’s GTP championship squad in 2020. There were only two full-season entries in LMP2 this past season, but McMurry gives team owners Mike Shank and Jim Meyer two reigning championship drivers in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 EVO for the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

McMurray joins championship driver Mario Farnbacher in that car. Farnbacher and Trent Hindman won the GTD championship this past season.

“I’m really happy with the lineup that we have in the 86 Acura for next year and am looking forward to building on what we accomplished this season,” team owner Shank said. “Mario has done a stellar job and he has been a big asset to this team and getting the championship. Having Matthew come back onboard is also very exciting. He’s had plenty of seat time in the NSX over in Europe this year and he should be able to find his feet quickly over here.

“As always it’s an honor to continue our work with Acura Motorsports and HPD. It’s going on four years now and they have been great to work with and we hope that we can continue to deliver results for them next year.”

Farnbacher returns to defend his GTD title, the team’s first Sports Car championship after it began IMSA Sports Car racing in 2004.

Farnbacher will rejoin the Ohio-based team for the third straight season. Farnbacher’s first year at MSR (2018) saw him take on endurance duties in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3. The German ace was also recruited to make two starts in the team’s sister No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 at Detroit and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which saw him, and Katherine Legge respectively take a victory and third place finish.

Farnbacher’s role expanded in 2019 with a full season drive alongside Trent Hindman. The pair won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen and claimed four additional podium finishes on the way to clinching the IMSA GTD Team and Driver Championships at the season finale Motul Petit Le Mans. The Championship was the first full season professional championship victory for Meyer Shank Racing and Farnbacher.

“I’m excited to be back with the Meyer Shank Racing guys next year,” Farnbacher said. “We had a great 2019 season and we will head into 2020 with the same goal. I’m looking forward to working with Matthew, I know he drove the Acura NSX GT3 EVO in Europe in the Blancpain Endurance series, so he has experience with the car. I have raced against him and know him from the paddock and I’m looking forward to getting to work with him. As always with a new driver pairing, we will have to get to know each other a little bit better since we have never driven together but hopefully, we can do that during some testing which will start soon.”

McMurry is the newcomer and even though he only had to beat one other car to win the LMP2 championship, a title is a title and he won that title.

McMurry was the youngest driver to start and finish the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans at just 16 years old, McMurry had two Prototype starts with MSR in 2015 at Daytona and the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

McMurry’s talent expands across the sports car racing field, competing in everything from Prototypes, to Prototype Challenge machines, to GT cars. The 2019 season saw McMurry claim six wins in IMSA LPM2 competition on the way to winning the LMP2 championship. In addition to competing stateside, McMurry drove an Acura NSX GT3 EVO in the European Blancpain Endurance series in 2019 with race outings at Circuit de Barcelona, 24 Hours of Spa, Circuit Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Monza.

McMurry’s work with HPD extends beyond the competition on track, having just completed a successful 10-week engineering internship with HPD.

“It’s an honor to be selected to join the Meyer Shank Racing team again,” McMurry said. “I can’t imagine a better place to be for the 2020 IMSA season than in an Acura NSX GT3 EVO at MSR. It’s a perfect fit coming from a great run in the NSX in the Blancpain Endurance Championship, a successful internship at Honda Performance Development, and an IMSA LMP2 championship. I’m excited to be driving with Mario this year too, he’s a great guy and I think we’ll make a good team. It’s not often you get two IMSA champions in one car! The Roar Before the 24 is quickly approaching and I couldn’t be more excited.”

The 2020 IMSA season will be the fourth consecutive season of IMSA competition for MSR and Acura Motorsports. Having transitioned from the Prototype class in 2017, MSR has fostered the progress of the Acura NSX GT3 to earn five wins, five pole positions,12 podium finishes and two championship titles with Acura, Acura Motorsports and HPD.

Meyer Shank Racing continues to finalize plans for the 2020 season for the team’s IMSA and IndyCar Series programs and will have additional updates in the coming weeks.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.