Despite losing its factory backing at the end of the season, Michael Shank Racing has reaffirmed plans to be on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship grid next year, fielding up to two Acura NSX GT3 cars.
The Ohio-based team, which currently sits fourth in the GT Daytona title race, will revert to a privateer effort in 2018, with team boss Mike Shank currently in the process of securing funded drivers for the program.
“Since we have to change the way we operate next year, we’re going to look at Silver drivers that have some sponsorship in place to keep it going,” Shank told Sportscar365.
“I have some of my own sponsors in place for next year already; it’s part of a bigger deal I’m working on to cover a couple of different series. The Silvers have to bring some funding.
“Together we can try to make two cars work. That’s the goal, to try to get two cars.”
Shank said he plans to test prospective Silver-rated drivers in October or November to determine the lineup, which could include a mix of its existing drivers.
Despite being part of the factory program, Andy Lally, Katherine Legge, Ozz Negri and Jeff Segal are all employed directly by MSR, according to Shank.
“Their contract ends after Petit [Le Mans], so they’ll all fighting for jobs after that,” he said.
“The Lexus guys should be in the same boat. We intend to abide [by] what IMSA wants and that’s what we’re doing.”
Some of the visible changes for 2018 will include independent sponsorship, fewer embedded Acura and HPD engineers, as well as Shank needing to purchase the cars from the manufacturer.
Having already received a “really good” response from funded drivers, the longtime sports car racing team owner is optimistic on building on their maiden season in GTD, which has delivered a pair of class wins.
He also believes there’s still more potential to be unlocked with the Acura.
“I think the best news is that we definitely have a package that can win,” Shank said.
“Nothing’s changing on our side of the equation, being the crew, the engineer and all that is staying put. We’ll have two really good Golds in the cars.
“The biggest thing is to keep my relationship with Acura, even though they’re not a factory program [in GTD], there will still be a big presence around here because they want to make sure their product is good. We’ll keep working on it.
“My goal is to keep the momentum going. If we would have started where we’re at now, we would really had something.”
While his primary focus remains in the continuation of the GTD program, Shank said he’s also working on options in the open-wheel world, namely a return to the Indianapolis 500 after making his team debut this year, in association with Andretti Autosport.
A move back to the Prototype ranks in the WeatherTech Championship, meanwhile, has been ruled out for the short-term.