Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian completed one of the toughest events in motorsport two weeks ago to take a ninth place LMP2 class finish in the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Taking the checkered flag after 24 hours of racing reflected a strong team response to a number of challenges and potential setbacks in the lead up to, and throughout, the race, all of which were responded to with the determination by the tight-knit American team to make it through to the checkered flag. Not only was the Michael Shank Racing team of John Pew, Ozz Negri and Laurens Vanthoor credited with a ninth place class finish, the group also placed 14th overall among 60 cars.
Also racing at Le Mans was Olivier Pla, who competes full time in the World Endurance Championship for Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. He and his team finished fourth in the GTE Pro category in the No. 66 Ford GT.
PLA BACK FOR THE GLEN: Olivier Pla is back with Michael Shank Racing for the third round of the North American Endurance Cup which features the four longer endurance races on the 2016 IMSA schedule. In his previous race with the team, Pla put the No. 60 Honda-Ligier on Pole at Sebring and was in podium contention in the final stages of the 12-hour race before a broken suspension took the team out just one lap shy of the checkered flag.
The Glen event marks Olivier Pla’s first-ever start at the historic Watkins Glen International.
REARVIEW MIRROR: The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event was the last time John Pew and Ozz Negri joined forces and the entire Michael Shank Racing team was together. It was there that the team stormed to a breakthrough victory. In the previous IMSA event at Detroit when half of the team remained in Le Mans and half returned for the IMSA race, Katherine Legge teamed up with Ozz Negri. The squad looked poised for a podium finish until a broken suspension late in the going saw the No. 60 Honda-Ligier fall several laps down.
CONSECUTIVE STARTS: The Glen event will mark Michael Shank Racing’s 157th consecutive Prototype race since the team’s debut at the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH PATRIOTIC LIVERY: The No. 60 Honda-Ligier is sporting the same livery on its car here in the States that it did on the car over in France. The fin proudly displays an American flag as we celebrate the Fourth of July holiday weekend at the Glen.
MICHAEL SHANK RACING’S HISTORY IN THE 6 HOUR: Michael Shank Racing has finished fourth in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen six times (’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’13). The team looks to build on the strong momentum it has built through the first half of the 2016 season to break through for a podium result at the historic circuit. Last year, after posting the quickest time in every practice session of the weekend, a broken suspension took the team out of the running just past the half-way point of the race.
BACK TO BACK GLEN SPRINT PODIUMS: Ozz Negri and then co-driver Burt Frisselle took a podium finish of second in 2004 for Michael Shank Racing on the Glen’s short course. Negri followed that up with another podium finish on the short course in 2005 while driving for Michael Shank Racing with Mark Patterson.
MICHAEL SHANK RACING DRIVER QUOTES:
JOHN PEW: “I’ve heard that the new pavement at the Glen is awesome. It’s a great track anyways. It is one of my favorite tracks with the way it flows and going up the hill and the Esses and everything. Having fresh new pavement is just going to make it super. We’ll have Olivier (Pla) back with us again helping us out. He is a great guy. I love having him on the team. He’s a fast driver and is very knowledgeable about the Ligier. He’s really going to enjoy the Glen.”
OZZ NEGRI: “Watkins Glen is my favorite track. I liked it before (the new pavement) and I think I’ll like it even more. By what everyone that tested there said, Watkins Glen has done a fantastic job and the track is super smooth and has plenty of grip. That is really what our car likes, as opposed to street courses like Detroit or Long Beach. We are looking forward to the Glen and hopefully having a pretty strong showing there. Last year was the first year we had the Ligier and we learned quite a lot. We understand it a lot more. When Dale (Wise, engineer) and I have our pre-race debrief some of the things we discuss are things we know for sure, it’s not like last year when we didn’t know and had to try different things out. It’s always good to have a driver like Olivier (Pla) in the car with us. He is very professional and super fast. He has only good things to add to our program.”
OLIVIER PLA: “It’s actually going to be my first time racing at the Glen. I think it’s a wonderful track and very fast. From what I hear from other drivers it’s a fantastic place so I’m really looking forward to the race. Returning to the Shank car is great, I’ve really enjoyed my time at Daytona and Sebring with them. Unfortunately we were very unlucky in those races, so I really hope we can be luckier and have the same kind of result that they had at Laguna Seca (a win) which was great and I was really happy for them. I think our Ligier Honda should be good around the Glen. I’ve been learning on Youtube by watching some onboard cameras and training myself to learn the track. After Le Mans, I’ve been concentrating on the Glen and I’m really looking forward to it.”