Spending 14 years with the Michael Shank Racing team feels like a lifetime to Ozz Negri, and after a change in the program’s status from factory-backed to Pro-Am, the Brazilian is on the hunt for a new home in the IMSA paddock.
Shank’s need to take on funded drivers and the pros of their choosing has led to the unfortunate end to one of the sport’s longest partnerships, and for the renowned racer and driver coach, there are no hard feelings.
“These 14 years with Mike; they’ve been the best time of my whole career, my whole life,” Negri told RACER. “We won the biggest races together at Daytona in the Rolex 24, we won Petit Le Mans, and then I got to finish my time with Mike as one of the factory drivers when he got the Acura deal, so, OK, I’m very sad, but I can say I’m very blessed. But there is a change now for me and this is what I’m concentrating on.”
As one of the more popular and accomplished drivers to span the former Grand-Am Rolex Series and its successor, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Negri hopes to land another driver in IMSA.
“Maybe I’ve been too quiet about this; I’m not the type of guy with a big [ego] shouting all the time to get attention, but I am working very hard to crack some doors open,” he continued. “We led races this year with Jeff [Segal] in GT Daytona, and if I can stay and race in that class, I would like to. And I am talking to teams in Prototype about going back there, because it’s the place where I’ve had the best success.”
The chance to maintain his dual role as a rapid pro who mentors and teaches from the cockpit would please Negri as he adjusts to life after MSR.
“I cannot tell you how hard we worked this year with the Acuras to make them capable to win races, and this gives me quite a lot of satisfaction, but I also like just driving as fast as I can go and working with guys, the gentleman drivers like I did with John [Pew], to achieve big things in motor racing,” he said. “That part is something I love so much. I’m talking to a few teams, I’m mega-fit, I’m still fast…just let me drive.”