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Michael Shank’s new direction

December 18, 2014

Michaael Shank and T.E. McHale of Honda – Anne Proffit photoShank and McHale

There were a lot of fun, interesting and informative press conferences at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indianapolis last week, but none got me more entranced and excited than Michael Shank Racing’s newest venture.

Following a long and successful relationship with Ford Racing that’s included winning the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona two seasons ago, Michael Shank Racing is making changes for its 2015 Tudor United Sports Car Championship (TUSCC) program. Several months ago Shank purchased a Ligier JS P2 Prototype chassis and, during the PRI show at Indianapolis, announced that chassis will be powered by Honda’s HR28TT LMP2 engine, the same one used by Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) in the World Endurance Championship.

That would make Shank’s group eligible for invitation and entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans if they have the kind of success envisioned. This announcement was good news for Honda Performance Development, giving it a season-long Prototype presence in TUSCC for 2015 because ESM has elected to run only the North American Endurance Championship next year.

You may recall that Shank attempted to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012 when the new DW12 chassis and engine  competition were introduced. He went as far as to purchase a new tub for this endeavor and to work on getting an engine deal. None was forthcoming from either Chevrolet or Honda and, as is its wont, INDYCAR was less than inviting to work with.

The Columbus, Ohio-based owner and team, who have worked strenuously for its successes in sports car racing, gave up that idea and concentrated on the final seasons of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the start of the TUSCC regime in 2014. The team has run Daytona Prototype entries in either Grand-Am or TUSCC since 2004, giving it more than 230 starts overall. John Pew and Ozz Negri continue as full-season drivers.

While HPD had ESM successfully working with them in a two-car entry in 2014, it also had a couple of aborted starts with Starworks using a Riley Daytona Prototype mated to the Honda engine. Problems with overheating meant just a few laps at Sebring and only one other try later in the year. MSR’s entry for 2015 marks the first coupe entry for the HPD in the United States as ESM used HPD’s open Prototype entries in 2014. Coupes are mandated for WEC and by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which sanctions the Le Mans 24-hour race.

In making the announcement, Shank expressed his pleasure at the tie-in and Honda rep T.E. McHale, who attended the show marked his memories of the team and its owner as he’s watched Michael Shank and his racing team since he was a reporter in Mansfield, Ohio, close to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Perhaps now that the ice is broken and once Shank’s team shows the success it’s bound to have with this new package, the idea of going to the Indianapolis 500 with Honda won’t be far behind?

Michael Shank Racing’s gorgeous orange Ligier/Honda package debuts at the Roar Before the 24 test days scheduled for January 9-11 before competing in the midwinter twice around the clock classic on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road/oval course the final weekend of January.

By Anne Proffit

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