2016 is shaping up to be a big year for Michael Shank Racing, with the possibilities of an expanded effort in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and a debut appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Team owner Mike Shank, along with driver John Pew, made their first visits to the French endurance classic last month, as part of a recon mission with the goal of returning with a Ligier JS P2 Honda next year.
“I was blown away,” Shank told Sportscar365. “I was kind of prepared but not really prepared for what I saw, from the build up to to the race and the race itself.
“I watched the race and how it really ebbs and flows compared to the [Rolex] 24, which is a lot different.
“People told me the intensity of Le Mans was not quite as much as Daytona meaning that you don’t run every lap like a qualifying lap.
“But from what I saw over there, it’s gone to that as well. I don’t buy that anymore.”
Shank noted the differences in regulations, such as the Pro-Am format of LMP2 and the specific drive-time requirements, along with other factors such as Slow Zones, that his team will need to get up to speed with.
“I learned from everywhere from where drivers can sleep to where the crew eats, where tech is at the track and in town,” he said. “I learned so many things.
“We are working on it now. We have video recordings of pit stops. We have how the warmup and test day goes.
“I want my guys to visualize it now and start thinking about it.”
While he’s still finalizing the budget, Shank said they’re nearly there on confirming its program for 2016, which would see Pew and Ozz Negri as two of the drivers.
The Ligier-Honda Le Mans effort would be dependent on securing an entry from the ACO, although Shank is hopeful of being awarded one of IMSA’s two automatic invites for the race.
“Overall, we’re 90 percent there, I’d say,” Shank said. “I’m having meetings now about how we do it.
“If we do it with this car, if we do it with [a different chassis] that’s over there, so we could come back and do [Watkins Glen] in a snap.
“Also who would be our third driver? We’re trying to get those details ironed out.”
Shank is also targeting an expansion within the TUDOR Championship next year, ideally with 17-year-old Matt McMurry, who drove for the team at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has continued testing the team.
It would likely be with a leased or used Ligier-Honda package.
“In my perfect world, I would love to run one-and-a-half cars,” Shank said. “Meaning I’d run this one full-time and then a long-distance [only] car.
“That would be ideal. Hopefully I’d get to do that with Matt. That would be a perfect, ideal situation.
“Like everybody else up and down the line, we need to get the money [to make it happen]. But we’re getting closer.”