Michael Shank Racing’s return to IMSA’s pro-am GT Daytona class features a driver line-up that should keep the privateer Acura NSX GT3 team in the hunt for wins and a championship.
After transitioning from a full factory program to an independent effort following the Petit Le Mans season finale in October, Shank’s two-car WeatherTech SportsCar Championship effort will take on a different look as the No. 93 will move forward as a full-time entry and the No. 86 will reduce to North American Endurance Cup outings.
Leading the No. 93, Rolex 24 at Daytona class winner Justin Marks has moved over from a long association with Turner Motorsport to join sports car champion Lawson Aschenbach in the twin-turbo V6-powered coupe. German rocket Mario Farnbacher will complete the No. 93 trio at the four NAEC rounds, and team veteran AJ Allmendinger, who was part of MSR’s Rolex 24-winning squad in 2012, will pilot the car at Daytona.
In the No. 86, Katherine Legge, who earned two wins last season for Acura and MSR, is back and she’ll have 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Alvaro Parente as her teammate. The rest of the No. 86 driver rotation will be named at a later date.
“We learned so much with this program last year and I was very proud to represent Acura and bring home a pair of wins with the NSX in its first season,” said Shank.
“The NSX is phenomenal and we want to build on what we’ve learned so far. I’m very pleased to have two big talents in Justin and Lawson come on board—their records speak for themselves. Having the second entry for the long races and maybe some additional events will also be a boost for the program, between what Katherine already knows about this car from last year and having a guy like Alvaro join us, that will be a second bullet for us in the long races. And people are going to love how these cars are going to look.”
Six deep, the new MSR IMSA driver rotation sees grand opportunities to capture more wins in the WeatherTech Championship’s deepest class.
Lawson Aschenbach, No. 93 Acura NSX GT3: “I’m extremely excited to be joining Michael Shank Racing in 2018. This team has the professionalism and dedication needed for success. From top to bottom you can see that everyone has a common goal, and that is to win. This is the type of environment that drivers dream about. It’s going to be fun teaming up with my buddy Justin Marks. He’s a great friend and we are both excited to be pushing for podiums and wins with Michael Shank Racing and the Acura NSX GT3.”
Justin Marks, No. 93 Acura NSX GT3: “Even focusing the past years of my career in NASCAR, I’ve always felt that a return to full time endurance sports car racing was a goal. To make that return with a team like MSR is really special. I have a lot of respect for Michael and everything he’s accomplished. It’s a very cohesive, dedicated, classy group of talented individuals.
“Michael Shank Racing is very respected in the racing industry. They’ve proven they were well equipped to take on the NSX North American racing program in 2017 and I think are poised to take the next step in 2018 as GTD Championship contenders. Lawson and I are great friends and have been trying to put something together to be teammates for several years, so driving with him is incredibly exciting for me. I’m a fan of his talent, work ethic, and approach.”
Mario Farnbacher , No. 93 Acura NSX GT3: “Michael Shank has a big and great name in the IMSA WeatherTech series. Since I started driving in the IMSA series back in 2014, his cars have always been at the top of the chart. Overall it’s definitely one of the best teams in the paddock.
“To be honest, I have always been a Japanese car fan. My brother and I have been collecting Japanese cars, including a Honda NSX NA2, for several years now. To drive the new generation of the NSX is a honor, and then the GT3 version is unbelievably great. I am proud to be part of this program. I’ve never driven with Lawson or Justin, but they are both nice guys and I am sure we will be a strong team for this season. I can’t wait to work with them together.”
A.J. Allmendinger, No. 93 Acura NSX GT3: “I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the 24! I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back. His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”
Katherine Legge, No. 86 Acura NSX GT3: “I am really excited to be joining Michael Shank Racing for another season. We had a lot of success last year especially with it being the first season for the Acura NSX GT3. Bringing home two wins last year definitely made me want to achieve more of that for this year. I think Alvaro and I will be a great pairing and hopefully we can achieve even more this year in the endurance events.”
Alvaro Parente, No. 86 Acura NSX GT3: “I have a good feeling about joining Michael Shank Racing, knowing how successful the team was last year and seeing the strong performances in the races. I really look forward working with the team and working hard for good results this coming season. Speaking to Mike, I can understand straight away how serious and determined everyone is, and that is also my style so think we can have a good season together. I raced against the Acura last year in PWC and saw some great progression and some good results and even more so with MSR in the IMSA championship.”