One of GRAND-AM’s longest-running DP teams is set for a switch to new machinery for next year, as Michael Shank Racing will run a Ligier JS P2 in the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Team owner Michael Shank has confirmed to Sportscar365 plans to debut the P2 car at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March with full-season drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew at the wheel of the Onroak Automotive-built prototype.
The engine for the Ligier is expected to be announced in the coming days.
Negri and Pew will start their 9th consecutive season as co-drivers at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in Shank’s current Riley-Ford DP, with the team transitioning to the P2 contender for the second round of the season.
“We’re ready for a new challenge,” Mike Shank told Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview. “I think this allows us to be more in line with whatever the heck happens in 2017.
“It will be way close to what we’re doing than where we’re at right now [with the DP]. It aligns us with the world. I’m trying to position us to go forward in this world.”
The decision to debut the Ligier at Sebring came strictly down to timing, according to Shank, who said they expect to take delivery of the car on Feb. 15, which will then be followed by a two-day private test at Sebring on Feb. 18-19.
“I just can’t get a Ligier in time for it,” he said. “It’s not a BoP strategy, which some people will think. The DP will be strong at Daytona. We tried to get [the Ligier] for Daytona.
“Last year, it was a hard deal when we shoved the V6 twin-turbo on top of the downforce changes [to the DP] we had… It was a nightmare. What I want to do is go to Daytona with the most reliable product we can go with.”
One of the major motivating factors to make the switch to P2 machinery now is Shank’s desire to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With an ACO-compliant car soon to be in the hands of the Ohio-based squad, the team targeting an entry to the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic in 2016.
“I really want to go to Le Mans and that’s really driving this,” Shank said. “For me, it’s exactly where the Indianapolis 500 is. It’s parallel to that. I’m 47 now. I want to get to Le Mans on the list. I’ll go over there next year to scope it out and figure it out.
“One of the great things with running the Ligier is that [Onroak Automotive] is based literally at the track. They can be very helpful for us with the ACO. It’s just a total integration to make the transition to run Le Mans a bit easier.
“From hotels to food to whatever you want to say. It’s a natural relationship, I think. I really like Jacques [Nicolet]. He has a successful business outside of that but I appreciate his passion in making sure that his car does well.”
Shank becomes the second team to commit to a P2 car for the majority of the season, joining the factory SpeedSource Mazda entries.