Meyer Shank Racing’s transition back into the top class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been quite a ride.
“It’s been tough,” co-team owner Mike Shank told RACER. “A little harder than we were anticipating, and we’ve had kind of a tough year, to be honest. We had three consecutive years… In ’18, we lost the GTD championship by one point, and the next two years we won the championship. To come from that back to prototypes, where we’d been for 13 years prior, a lot had changed. It took us a while to get our mojo. We got it now, and that’s good for next year.”
MSR last competed in IMSA’s top class in 2016, a season before the debut of the current DPi cars. Then equipped with the Ligier JS P2, the team captured two wins, including overall victory at Petit Le Mans.
While a four-year hiatus from IMSA’s top class may not seem like a long time, there was enough change to make the learning curve steep.
“The cars are a lot different,” Shank said. “Really, the cars are just way different than they were. Just trying to adapt to that, and what’s changed since we’d been in it last time. It took us a while to get after it and to figure it out; be comfortable with it. Not impossible, but we’ve kind of had a tough year. We’ve had some mistakes and we’ve had all kinds of stuff. It’s just been one of those years for us.”
When pressed for what specific areas his team is struggling with, Shank wasn’t ready to give out trade secrets. However, he admitted the team continues to find ways to improve for next year while simultaneously preparing for the arrival of LMDh in 2023.
“We know the areas that we weren’t great at,” he said. “We’ve already been working on them. But at the same time, we’ve got to start developing the LMDh platform in the spring. Actually, we’re working on things now to be honest with you, but that will be a priority for us to make sure we come out of the gate strong in ’23.”
The combination of Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla took the No. 60 MSR Acura DPi to its current position of fifth on the points table, and Helio Castroneves will take Pla’s place in the line-up at Road Atlanta to help the team toward a strong close to the season. Although a win hasn’t come this year, promise has been shown at the past two endurance rounds with a third-place finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring (with Juan Pablo Montoya as a third driver) and a runner-up in the Six Hours at The Glen. If that trend continues, the squad could find itself on the top step of the podium on November 13.
“We’re totally capable of doing well at a high level,” Shank said. “We tested there two weeks ago; it was really good. We’re looking forward to getting after it – we won Petit overall in 2016 in prototypes. That was the year we stopped doing prototypes. We won that overall the last race of the year. We know what we’ve got to do, for sure.
Additionally, there is an emphasis on making sure the championship confetti rains down on MSR’s manufacturer ally, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura DPi, to keep the crown in the Honda family.
“We’re also going to try to help the No. 10 car win the championship again,” Shank said. “So, there’s a couple of job assignments there.”