Shank headed to Le Mans
Shank headed to Le Mans
Michael Shank Racing may have a Rolex 24 trophy in its workshop but now the Ohio-based team has its sight set on chasing success this year in the biggest 24 hour race of all – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The team earned an invitation to compete at Le Mans thanks to the efforts of team driver John Pew who won the 2015 Trueman Award as the top semi-pro racer in the IMSA WeatherTech Prototype championship.
Pew will team with longtime Michael Shank Racing co-driver Ozz Negri as well as Laurens Vanthoor, (Belgium) who will make his first start with the team and second career start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans event.
Vanthoor is renowned as a GT superstar for Audi – winning last year’s Nurburgring 24 Hour. He made his Le Mans debut last year with Oak Racing but his Blancpain Championship assault was cut short by a crash which put him on the sidelines for two months with a broken hip.
The Pew, Negri, Vanthoor entry will work with Onroak and Honda as technical partners. Michael Shank Racing joined forces with Onroak ahead of the 2015 IMSA season, utilizing the Ligier JS P2 Honda to score pole in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and take three podiums.
The French effort will be managed as a separate program from the previously-announced 2016 plans to contest the IMSA WeatherTech Championship with full-season drivers Pew and Negri. That campaign launches with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 30-31.
“When I first started with Michael Shank Racing in 2007, I never thought that this all would eventually lead to a 2016 Le Mans entry in an LMP2 car,” said Pew.
“Le Mans is the pinnacle in the world of sports car racing. What an honor it will be just to race there. Last year we went to Le Mans just to observe and what an awesome event!
“The crowds, the track, the complete ambience. It is great to partner with Onroak in the Ligier P2 and with Honda. Not only is it an awesome car, but they have Le Mans experience which we hope to draw from.”
Many of the crew members have been part of Shank’s organization for more than 10 years and this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans provides will be their first opportunity to attend the classic French enduro.
“This is a big announcement and a very big project for my entire organization,” said Team Owner Mike Shank.
“It is one of the great things about our sport – we can compete on a world level and this gives us the first shot to be able to do that. This collaboration with Onroak is a very big part of our ability to do this, and of course getting the invitation from the ACO is critical, so we appreciate IMSA having the relationship with the organizers that they do.
“We are excited to bring someone like Laurens (Vanthoor) on board for this effort. I got to meet him last year at Le Mans and followed his race. I earmarked him right then and there. In fact I told John (Pew) that if we did Le Mans we needed to consider him and I always had him in the back of my mind so we are fortunate that we were able to sign him. I’m very excited about having everything come together to make this possible, it is the biggest challenge we’ve taken on as a group and we are very, very motivated to do well.”
Vanthoor, 24, campaigned the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Honda-Ligier package with Oak Racing last year. He set the car’s best lap time during the race with a 3:38.251-second lap.