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Shank: MSR Got “Super Lucky” With Race-Long Gearbox Drama

Meyer Shank Racing, Acura overcomes obstacles to win in first GTP race of new era…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Mike Shank admitted they got “super lucky” to get its Acura ARX-06 to the finish of the Rolex 24 at Daytona after managing gearbox temperature issues for nearly three-quarters of the race.

The No. 60 crew of Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud drove to a controlling first victory of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP era while overcoming several dramas with the debuting LMDh car.

“The odds of this happening, I gave probably 5 or 10 percent,” Shank said. “This has been such a huge job and there’s 200 people from every department that made this happen.

“To have it come together, then have it come together and win the race and finish 1-2 with Wayne Taylor, Andretti and us… It’s just amazing.

“I was so stressed. Our car had a gearbox problem all night and we could not fix it. We decided to run it until it blew up. It didn’t blow up. We got super lucky.”

Shank said the increased gearbox temperatures was a “serious” concern from about Lap 200, which resulted in extended pit stops to disassemble the rear deck and engine cover during pit stops in order to add fluids.

“It was real serious,” he said. “The guy that really monitors that sits right next to me and someone brought him a piece of racer’s tape and said ’90 C’ on it so we stopped looking at it.

“If it goes, it goes. It just didn’t. We kept maintaining the gearbox and the fluid levels and trying to fix it, literally the whole race.”

Castroneves admitted he wasn’t aware of the issue for most of the race, with the team not informing the drivers of its severity.

“I [didn’t know] until they mentioned that we were losing time in the pits and they mentioned about something with the gearbox,” the Brazilian said. “I never asked because I didn’t wan’t to know the answer and put something in my head when I was driving.

“What they did was perfect. I never felt anything inside the car.”

Blomqvist added: “Luckily it wasn’t anything that affected when we were out on track driving. That was good.

“But we also had a small battery issue, towards the end, we couldn’t stop the car in the pits the way we needed to so we had to keep the engine running. That was a little bit more stressful.

“What HPD has done. This is the first race. We’ve all got the same regulation. We all had to reach the same targets. We were all driving on the same power, the same weight and we’ve done the best job.

“Hats off to everyone that’s been a part of this project.”

In addition, both Acuras, as well as other GTP class competitors, completed oil flushes due to the introduction of VP Racing’s new 80 percent blend of renewable fuel that diluted into the engine oil.

“We essentially changed the motor oil during the race,” Shank explained. “That wasn’t that bad; we could deal with that all day and we had time to do that.”

Honda Performance Development President David Salters explained they were aware of oil situation since late November and specifically flew in personnel to help manage it.

“There is a really cool renewable fuel in this car,” Salters said. “It comes with different characteristics and one thing we are just learning now: You can get oil dilution of the fuel.

“That’s a new thing because it’s brand new and no one has tried this stuff before, so we have to manage it.

“Our head of engine development has been in the back of the trailer. He flew in specially to keep an eye on it. We have a machine flown in specially to monitor it so that we didn’t mess up.

“Apparently, we didn’t mess it up. We had a few kerfuffles we were left some pit stuff attached and where we normally fill it easily, we didn’t fill it so easily but that’s racing.

“There were some new technical challenges and we had to rise to them.”

Shank added:  “We knew we had issues going on but we had a really fast car and so did Wayne [Taylor] in the 10 car. We wanted to make sure we had something for the last hour, which was really difficult for our car because we had little things [going on].

“If you watched the race we were probably in the pit lane more than anybody.

“We did it a smart way. We understood the strategy, we knew when we could get away with taking the car apart and fixing something and going back out there and not really hurt the effort overall.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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