Michael Shank Racing will focus its entire 2017 effort on its new factory GT Daytona deal with Acura, having effectively ruled out a Prototype program in next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Ohio-based team, which will be making its 250th prototype start in next weekend’s Petit Le Mans with Ozz Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla in its Ligier JS P2 Honda, will exit the P class following the 10-hour enduro at Road Atlanta.
“As it sits, 99.9 percent [unlikely for Prototype in 2017],” Shank told Sportscar365 last weekend at Circuit of The Americas. “It would take the right program, but it would have to be brought to me by them probably.
“We’re going to focus on [the Acura NSX GT3] and let it take us where it takes us.”
The longtime DP entrant shifted to P2 racing in 2014, which began his relationship with Honda Performance Development and led to the team’s two-car Acura NSX GT3 program.
With the coveted factory effort having been courted by multiple teams, Shank admitted he had another plan in place should he had not landed the deal for next year.
“In any business, whether it’s racing or selling golf balls, I had an ‘A’ plan and this is it, and I was working but I was highly developed on my ‘B’ plan,” he said.
“Picking what prototype chassis to go with right now is a little bit like Russian roulette.
“In some regards, I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision right now. It went out way but we had a backup plan. We would have been in Prototype, at some level.”
While MSR’s shift to the GTD ranks will not include its longtime driver John Pew, Shank hasn’t discounted an eventual return to Prototype class in the future.
It’s understood Honda is planning a DPi program for 2018, although its choice of partner team or teams remains unclear.
“At some time, absolutely,” Shank said on a possible P class return.” That’s what we were brought and raised on here. All my connections there are solid and the plan I was working on before… this is easy to take up again.”
Shank, who made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut this year, has also ruled out a return to the French endurance classic next year.