Mike Shank said he’s “completely relieved” to have claimed his team’s long-awaited first win in Acura DPi machinery in the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Ohio-based squad led home a 1-2 for Acura in a controlling final-stint run by Helio Castroneves, who edged out the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 of Ricky Taylor in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
The victory — ten years after MSR’s first and only other Rolex 24 win to date — came after a challenging first season with in the DPi ranks that saw the team go winless.
“We needed it bad, real bad,” Shank told Sportscar365. “We had a tough year last year and I made that very public. I didn’t want to run from the truth, which was that we had a tough year.
“We set about trying to fix it.
“I told all these guys the same thing. ‘Here’s where we were. Here’s where we’re going. I’m not stopping until we get some kind of closure and some kind of competitive level that we’re used to dealing with in the sports car world.’
“Today proved we’re certainly on the right track. We have a long year to go yet but I liked our execution a lot today. And I’m just completely relieved.”
Shank said his all-new full-season driver lineup in LMP2 star Tom Blomqvist and ex-Mazda ace Oliver Jarvis were “very specifically” brought into the program.
“You can see it with Helio and Simon [Pagenaud] easily,” he said. “But these two, I looked at them, I saw every document I could see on their speed and what they’re doing, their ability and experience.
“I just picked who I thought could be virtually the same speed and have the same kind of sensibility.”
Shank credits MSR’s breakthrough 2012 Rolex 24 win with its Riley-Ford DP for ‘catapulting’ the team into what it is today.
“That day was really special with John Pew, Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson,” he said. “We lost Justin at Pocono in 2015.
“I kind of think about that first. I don’t know, I just think about that and what went on there.
“To do what we did that year, which was really catapult the team and business to another level, really started our trajectory that ran [us to] today.
“I’m really grateful that so many great people. My wife and I put everything on the line. It started with Jim France putting his arm around me and not ever letting go.
“Then I met Jim [Meyer] about four years ago and my life got much worse! (joke)
“It’s a super happy day. To get the 50th and 60th [Rolex 24 wins] are super special. Winning the Indy 500 is great but man I’m just so competitive, I was going crazy today.
“We came out of the gate… and went to work and we made the car better.”
Pagenaud: MSR’s Strategy Was “Fantastic”
Simon Pagenaud, in his first race start with MSR, praised the team’s strategists for calling a “fantastic” race.
“The execution was amazing,” he said. “First and foremost was the strategy. We were able to save fuel and go longer than anyone.
“The strategist, Mike and Ryan set themselves up that at the end we’d put less fuel in the car, to take less time to leapfrog everybody in the pits. That’s exactly what happened.”
Blomqvist, who gave way to Castroneves for the final hour, explained the reasoning for not taking the car to the checkered flag.
“It would have been fantastic to finish the race but I had been in the car quite a while,” he said.
“I was pretty cooked at that point and I was busting for a wee for the last two hours! That didn’t make my life very easy.
“Helio had been super strong all race. It wasn’t like we were going to give anything away there. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I think we made the right call there.”