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Shank: “Every Team in the Paddock Works For a Factory Deal”

Michael Shank on landing Acura NSX GT3 factory deal…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

After more than a decade of prototype racing, Michael Shank is set for a new chapter in his racing career, as the longtime IMSA/Grand-Am team owner shifts gears to the GT Daytona class with Acura’s new factory NSX GT3 program.

Shank, along with RealTime Racing were confirmed last week as Acura’s partner teams for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge, respectively.

“It’s my first works program,” Shank told Sportscar365 following the program’s announcement. “I had semi-works with Ford for eight or nine years, but this is the first time that this type of program has come our way.

“Every team in the paddock works for a factory deal.”

The Ohio-based team, which will be celebrating its 250th prototype start in next weekend’s season-ending Petit Le Mans, will see a significant expansion, with the doubling of its program, as well as moving to a new class.

Shank said he’s planning to make a number of key hires for the two-car GTD effort, particularly on the crew side.

“There’s going to be a time, but some of the staff I’m hiring are GT3 experienced,” he said. “We’re doing that on our own.

“We don’t have to do that but I thought it’s the right thing to do, just to have some people in there that know a little bit more than us.”

On the driver front, Shank said he’ll need a total of eight drivers, four of them full-season.

“Obviously Acura and Honda have a say in this, and I have a little bit of a say, and program manager Lee [Niffenegger] has a little bit of a say, but everybody’s got their favorites and it’s just the way it goes,” Shank said.

“We try and talk it through and compromise where we need to sometimes here and there.”

He expects to bring in “some cool people” for the car’s planned competition debut at Daytona.

Given his history with employing open-wheel drivers, it would come as no surprise to see two of Honda’s IndyCar stars at the wheel of the mid-engined sports cars.

“I don’t know who it is yet but it will be someone outside of sports cars probably,” Shank said.

While being a factory program, and expecting to employ a top-class driver lineup, Shank said he’s cognizant of the category’s Pro-Am nature and has been in communication with IMSA on the driver selection process.

“We are not trying to abuse the system, but use the system,” he said. “We understand there are all kinds of ways of splitting this up. We’re going to get the best Silvers we can get that are legitimate Silver guys.

“To that end, for the last three weeks I’ve been working directly with [IMSA Race Director] Beaux Barfield on my thoughts.

“Just before I actually present it, but ‘Here’s my thought, what do you think of these four people.’

“They haven’t given us the rules yet but I kind of have an idea. I’m trying to get this thing funneled down.”

With a large investment set to be made to his team, expectations are high, as MSR takes on some of the most experienced GT teams next year.

“We’re just going to load it up,” Shank said. “I’m going to load people up and get the best drivers I can, and we’re going to focus on our program.

“I’m going to get experienced people to drive the car, experienced people to work on the car and to tune the car. As much as I can afford, and we’re not leaving much on the table.

“We’ll be able to test up until we register the car. We’re going to maximize everything we can.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. WBrowning

    September 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Michael Shank is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever talked with in the paddock and has done an amazing job with a smaller budget. I hope his new venture is successful and leads them to running multiple classes with a prototype in addition to their GTD/GT3 program.

  2. c6Rick

    September 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    It’s too bad that he’s stepping down to a lower class of car.

    • kv

      September 22, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      IF Honda is impressed with Shank and his team at the gt level MSR will be rewarded !

    • David Chaste

      September 22, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      He’s stepping down but in the overall scheme of things it’s really a step up. Honda will be throwing suitcases of cash at him to get him started, and to make sure he hits the ground running. He would have stayed in prototypes if it was not the right deal. It will be a bigger team with more experts and know-how.

      If you were in his place you would make the same move.

  3. David Chaste

    September 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    The ideal situation would be to win about 3 races in the first year and then mount a serious title challenge in the second year. If they could accomplish that and win at least either Sebring or Daytona in the first or second season they could seriously press Honda for a full fledged GTLM program with a Lemans entry fully funded.

    But all of this can only happen if the car is thoroughly developed. The Honda P2 engine used in IMSA is a winner so maybe good things can be expected.

  4. WBrowning

    September 22, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    I figured Honda might step up and run a LMP2/DPi car with MSR if things go well in GTD.

  5. jCage

    September 22, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    I see the appeal of the PWC program, where they’ll fight for overall wins. But it’s a little odd seeing ‘factory’ programs run the slowest class in IMSA.

    Is the driver rating staying the same next year? Between this and the Lexus program, I’m struggling to think of lineups that befit a full works program, yet still fits within Pro-Am rule.

    • someone

      September 22, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      There are plenty of wrongly rated pro drivers, and old pro’s floating around to game the system with.

    • StueyB83

      September 23, 2016 at 12:12 am

      It’s not uncommon.. Honda/Acura have thrown all the eggs into one basket and hopefully get results in both IMSA and PWC that generate customer racing sales in 2018 – across the world. And not just for the GT3, but also the NSX road car.

      Prototypes require the sinking of a lot of money, and the new LMP2 rules have prevented the on-sale of engines to customer teams outside of DPI – so you now have very limited options for generating income from developing products UNLIKE GT3 where everything can be on-sold to a wider range of customers (provide you attract some) with the added benefit of continuous sales of parts.

    • Andy Flinn

      September 23, 2016 at 11:57 am

      JCage, though it is a fine sprint series, the PWC doesn’t offer anything to manufacturers that want to go endurance racing at many classic North American racetracks.

      Also, let’s be honest. Though it has some standalone events, the PWC – unlike IMSA – is still primarily a support series.

  6. David Chaste

    September 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    They want the biggest bang for the buck. GTD is cheaper but you can advertise it as a win at Daytona like Audi did when the R8 first won with Alex Job and this year also when Magnus won. It’s also a major championship if you win the title. Customers for the NSX can also relate better to the deep pocketed drivers roaming the GTD landscape.

    A GTLM program costs more than any other program bar the factory LMP1 cash guzzlers, and since no one will trust a Wirth engineering built prototype (P2 or DPi) for a little while without full support, their best best is GTD.

  7. Elmo

    September 23, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Is there any chance we might see AJ Allmindinger in one of these cars? Its been pretty well documented that AJ has not been at all happy in his Nascar ride this season and he has publicly said he is a bit weary of the series. I wouldnt think money would be a huge issue for AJ and a move like this could also result in a one off at Indy. Just a thought…

    • Paige

      September 23, 2016 at 10:45 pm

      AJ’s been having a rough season on the NASCAR end but I don’t think he’s set to quit anytime soon. He still has four years left on his current contract after this year. Hopefully they’re going to be able to turn things around soon.

      As for him racing with Shank? I could see him at Daytona. Been there ever since ’06

  8. Ko I

    September 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    My $0.02:

    Shank knows how to lose well. All throughout this year, between the Ligier, its engine, or one of his drivers, they’ve lost a lot of races they were looking very strong in. And, he doesn’t seem to let it get in the way of going to the next race and drawing the best out of his people.

    This new NSX is tested, sure. But, racing calls for more of that car’s potential than running test laps. It’s going to let the team down at least a few times in 2017. Who better than Shank to handle that?

    • The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

      September 26, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Their biggest “issue” with the car is taking a “sabbatical” next year.

      • David Chaste

        September 26, 2016 at 12:48 pm

        Their so called “biggest issue” has single handedly kept them in business, and is the reason they’ve stuck around over the years to finally get noticed by Honda.

        Their biggest issue coughed up the cash for them to hire the premium drivers in endurance races (Pla, Allmendinger, Wilson, Vanthoor, even the retainer fee for Negri), which got them noticed.

  9. John Ramella

    September 28, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than Mike Shank. He is truly a gentleman and will take time to talk w/ anyone in the pit.

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