One of the longest-running DP squads could be making a switch to P2 machinery, as Michael Shank Racing is exploring Prototype options for the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.
The Ohio-based organization, which currently fields a Ford Ecoboost-powered Riley DP for Ozz Negri and John Pew, has yet to finalize its plans for next year, but a return to the Prototype class, in whatever type of car, is the team’s primary objective.
“I’m trying to stay in Prototype and I’m obviously going to stay with Ford, no matter what, but we don’t know how that’s going to look like yet,” team owner Michael Shank told Sportscar365.
“Whatever makes the budget work is what we’ll do. If we can make the budget work with a P2 car, I’m not opposed to it, as long as our Ford relationship stays intact.”
Shank, who is completing the first of a three-year factory contract with Ford, said he’s looked at all possible P2 chassis options for 2015, including the Ligier JS P2 (pictured above), which debuted last month at Circuit of The Americas.
Should the team go down the P2 route, Shank said it would be fitted with Ford’s 3.2-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine.
“I think it’s a cool prospect to be on a world stage, essentially,” he said. “There’s some work that needs to go into that to make it really happen. I think there’s something there.
“The P2 car is such a cool piece. It’s the latest of everything. I would argue that it’s even more current than an IndyCar today. I just don’t know if I have the guts to buy one on spec because I’ll have to pay for it.”
Budget is currently a concern, as Shank said he spent nearly $400,000 in direct costs to upgrade his Riley DP to 2014 P class classifications and doesn’t know if he can find the necessary funding for the purchase of an all-new car for next year.
He said a return with the current Riley-Ford DP package is 50/50 at this point but admits going the P2 route could help future-proof the program, especially with the new P2-style regulations are introduced in 2017.
“I think in some regard it does make some sense,” he said. “Also to speak, kinda where our series is headed in 2017. We’re migrating towards that type of car anyway, a carbon-cockpit car with more downforce.
“In general it may make some sense to head that way [in 2015] just because the mere fact that we’re all headed that way. The DP as we know today won’t exist in 16 months from now, essentially.”
Shank also hasn’t ruled out the option of using both cars in 2015, with TUDOR Championship rules permitting one chassis switch per season.
It could theoretically enable a team to start the year with a DP before switching to a P2 car later in the season.
Shank said he’s hopeful of Pew returning to the team for 2015 and that the new Jim Trueman Award, to recognize the top-finishing Pro-Am in the P class, has no affect on his plans.