Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing will be working “very closely” together in what Acura and Honda Performance Development are considering a “back to roots” approach in having multiple partner teams.
Announced on Wednesday, the two veteran IMSA operations will each field an Acura ARX-05 DPi in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning next year, following the end of a three-year exclusivity clause from Team Penske.
It has enabled the luxury automaker and its North American motorsports arm to return to its successful past of supporting multiple teams in the top prototype ranks, a strategy that dates back to Acura’s ALMS program in 2007 when Andretti Green Racing, Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing each ran an Acura-powered LMP2 cars.
Acura later stepped up to LMP1 competition with cars entered by Highcroft and De Ferran Motorsports.
HPD President Ted Klaus explained that the “complementary collaborative effort” will see the same level of factory support given to both teams, which Shank believes will help move the entire Acura DPi program forward.
“We all have a lot to offer in different ways,” said Shank. “I think we have high odds of doing well together.
“I can tell you that both teams have talked a lot. We’ll be working very closely together and that agreement comes from Ted, Wayne and I.
“We look forward to seeing where this goes.”
Shank said he and Taylor have been already talking on a daily basis, with MSR leveraging its existing partnership with HPD to help get WTR up to speed in the new environment.
“We’re working out now how our experience with HPD can expedite WTR’s engineering group and how they work and try to get this process going quicker than it could have otherwise,” Shank added.
The two teams come from similar roots, having been among the founding partners of the Daytona Prototype era of Grand-Am in the mid-2000s.
Both operations have claimed IMSA championships and overall victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“The great part is that I’m going to be working with Mike Shank, someone who started with me in Grand-Am in 2004,” said Taylor.
“Mike and I have never had a bad word. I trust him explicitly. I think the two of us can bring a lot to HPD.
“We’ve got to know everybody at HPD and I feel that they have treated us with so much respect. The Wayne Taylor Racing family has been treated with so much respect from these guys.
“What’s more important is that the vision is very clear in what they want to do and achieve. It’s exactly what I want to do and that’s move to the next level of sports car racing, follow through for the next two years, see where LMDh goes.”
The short-term, expectations, however, rest primarily on winning the Rolex 24, a race along with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, that has alluded the current Acura Team Penske operation.
“I think that the number one priority is obviously Daytona,” said Taylor. “The initial situation right now is that we have to finish this championship and once we finish this season we can get started immediately afterwards.
“You can imagine the pressure that’s on given that we’ve won three of the last four Daytona 24 hours. That is the goal now for the short-term.”
Shank Bracing for “Very Short Turnaround” to 2021 Season
Both WTR and MSR will not receive their cars until the end of this season in November, leaving a quick turnaround period to prep for January’s season-opener.
“It’s a big project especially with COVID and a very short turnaround we have between Sebring this year and the Rolex next year,” said Shank.
“I want to get these DPi cars in our shop as soon as possible, after the last race. We have a very narrow window after Sebring.
“We’re going to do a test, maybe, and then we’ve got to go racing.”
Taylor Excited for Acura’s “No Politics” Approach
The three-time IMSA drivers’ champion, who previously drove for the Comptech Acura squad in IMSA Camel Lights competition in the early 1990s, says he feels already at home with the manufacturer’s approach, especially in understanding the business-to-business opportunities.
“I feel at the moment where we are with the offer HPD and Acura Motorsports brought to me is what I want for my end-of-career, not just to be recognized as a customer program, but a semi-factory program with Mike,” Taylor said.
“They totally understand exactly what it takes to go racing. You need commercial partnerships these days simply because the way the economy is, and more importantly [to be] competitive.
“It always comes down to the budget. I’d say [Acura/HPD] is already in their first round, second round of discussions with Konica Minolta [for B2B opportunities] and this has never happened before. I’m very grateful they have done this.
“We have all the tools here — and they are supplying the tools to give Mike and I every chance and possibility of winning all these races.
“With Ted and Jon Ikeda and everybody from HPD and Acura, they’ve offered me something that will make my retirement go on for at least another 10-15 years!
“The dialogue between the two entities… Every single time I speak to them, it gets better and better. There’s no politics.”