Mike Shank is bullish on his team’s chances heading into the start of the sprint season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, stating that its Acura DPi program is “just starting to turn on” after a compressed off-season and move back to the top prototype class.
Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla head into this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by the TLX Type S at Mid-Ohio fourth in the DPi standings after coming off a podium run at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with the team’s Michelin Endurance Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
It came in only the Ohio-based team’s second outing with the Acura ARX-05 after four years of campaigning Acura NSX GT3s in the GT Daytona class, which Shank admitted came as a bigger learning curve than initially thought.
“We were behind with the car in general and we’re trying to get caught up as quickly as possible,” Shank admitted when asked by Sportscar365 on the progress made since the start of the season.
“We recognize it, we see what we need to work on and we try to combat it right away, even though we just came through an extremely compact time.
“Nov. 15 is when we were handed these cars. We had to be at Daytona two weeks later for our first test.
“It’s been incredible and I give a lot of credit to HPD and our partners at Wayne Taylor Racing too. I think we all work really well together to get everything, what both teams needed, to be successful.
“They were very successful at Daytona, which was a big thing for the Acura brand.
“You will see a continued level of performance from us starting at Mid-Ohio-on.
“Even though this car has this season and next season left in it, we’re going to take it as far out as we can and try to exceed what Dane was able to do with it at Penske.”
Meyer Shank Racing is coming off a test at Mid-Ohio late last month, which Cameron felt as beneficial heading into the team’s home race this weekend.
“I think it’s just cleaning up all of the details,” said Cameron. “We’ve had some good speed at times. We’re just continuing to build on our understanding of the car.
“Obviously it was a pretty tough, compacted off-season so there has been quite a lot on the plate for the team to jump up from GTD and restructure as they did.
“The car is mature in its development but it’s all-new to everyone here.
“I think we’ve shown really good speed at different times. We’re just trying to understand the car a little bit better and find out what the fine details of what makes it tick.
“We’re getting closer and closer to keeping the car in its happy spot all the time and are getting stronger each time we’re running the car.
“There’s a lot of really great tracks coming up for the car and I think Olli and I as drivers, so there’s a lot to look forward to as we get into the meat of the season here in the sprint races.”
Shank added: “It was important to us that we had Dane in this whole transaction because Dane’s had so much time and development with the car.
“I’m not afraid to tell you that I think we’re behind the car a little bit, especially in the beginning. We had last been in prototypes in 2016 and been out for four years.
“So to come back to it, I have to admit, it was probably a little bit bigger back step than I thought it would be since we spent so much time [in GTD].
“The cars have changed so much. It’s taken us a little bit of time. I can tell you we’re working hard to figure that gap out and we’re making progress on it big time.
“It’s been a special challenge for us for sure.”
Shank on Double Duty This Weekend: “They’re Both my Babies”
It will be a busy weekend for MSR, with its NTT IndyCar Series operation with Jack Harvey in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday.
Shank said he and team co-owner Jim Meyer will be at Indianapolis on Friday and Saturday prior to traveling to Ohio in time for Sunday morning’s WeatherTech Championship warmup session.
“I look forward to it,” Shank said. “It’s kinda exciting. I’ve always watched other team owners that have multiple [programs] do this kind of thing.
“This is what I love to do. It’s my job but it’s also my hobby. I love it.
“It’s tricky because they both are my babies. They both mean the same to me. There’s no favorite child here. They both have been part of my life for a while now.
“IndyCar was always my dream as a kid, as a driver, wanting to come up. IndyCar was always what I was thinking about.
“Sports cars came along in 2004 and actually made my IndyCar dream happen.
“I place the level of importance at the same for both of them.
“I’m super proud to represent AutoNation and SiriusXM on all the cars this year. The [IndyCar] program has tons of momentum right now and the sports car program is getting stronger every time it goes out.
“It’s in positions to win, which we expect it to be in Mid-Ohio this weekend.”