– Michael Shank Racing to make 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in June 2016 with No. 60 Ligier JS P2 Honda
– Belgian driver Laurens Vanthoor joins Michael Shank Racing’s John Pew and Ozz Negri for 24 Hours of Le Mans
– Invitation to Le Mans was earned thanks to John Pew, who won 2015 Trueman Award in IMSA competition
– The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans is a collaborative effort between Michael Shank Racing, Onroak and Honda
Daytona Beach, Fla. (8 January 2016) – Building on two decades of North American-based competition, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian has committed to taking on a new challenge on the global stage in 2016.
The Ohio-based team announced its plans on Friday for a debut outing in the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 17, 2016. The invitation-only race was first run in 1923 and is staged on the Circuit de Le Sarthe, an 8.3-mile track that is a combination of public roads and a permanent race circuit.
Attracting the titans of motorsport as well as hundreds of thousands of race fans, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest sports car race, held annually near the town of Le Mans, France.
A progressive partnership between the event organizers ACO (“Automobile Club of the West”) and IMSA forged the opportunity for the Ohio-based team to be invited to compete in 2016.
Michael Shank Racing earned the invitation to compete 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.
The effort will utilize an active collaboration with Onroak and Honda as technical partners. Michael Shank Racing joined the Onroak family ahead of the 2015 IMSA season, utilizing the Ligier JS P2 Honda platform to score pole in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and take three podiums.
The team first began preparations for the Le Mans event in 2014, generating the technical partnerships to have the competitive platform required for the race after moving from the Daytona Prototype package for the 2015 season. The drivers and key team members attended the 2015 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans to prepare for 2016.
Michael Shank Racing will see their first on-track action at the Circuit de le Sarthe on June 5th as part of the annual Test Day. Pew and Negri will also participate in the ACO-managed driver certification program that includes time on the Le Mans simulator as well as training in some of the safety procedures that are specific to the event.
The international effort will be managed as an extension of the previously-announced 2016 plans for Michael Shank Racing to contest the IMSA WeatherTech Championship with full-season drivers Pew and Negri. That campaign will launch 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.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is not only a dream come true for the drivers, but also for every member of the Michael Shank Racing team. Many of the crew members have been part of Shank’s organization for over 10 years and the 24 Hours of Le Mans provides the opportunity for each to add another big accomplishment in their careers by participating in the world-renowned event.
“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.
“I’m more than excited to join Michael Shank Racing for Le Mans!” said Vanthoor, who won the 24 Hours of Nürburgring last year. “Racing at Le Mans is a goal for every driver and especially for me, with my links with Audi, it’s a dream to be successful at Le Mans. Racing for the second time with the same package as the first time is definitely an advantage, I know what to expect and that puts me some steps ahead. I think Michael Shank Racing has big potential. I’ve always been keen on racing in the United States and starting a collaboration with Michael Shank Racing for Le Mans may hopefully continue on with other collaborations in the future, I would be more than happy with that! But first we are heading to Le Mans together and the main goal is to work hard and do our best.”
Mike Shank first began driving racing cars professionally before retiring from the cockpit in 1997 to focus his efforts on running the team, which quickly found success in the Champ Car Toyota Atlantic Championship. With several race wins under his belt, Shank was named as Team Owner of the Year twice in four years.
Michael Shank Racing joined the IMSA ranks in 2004 as the team proved as quick in endurance racing as in the sprint formula car format. The team scored a dramatic victory in the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012, and backed that race-winning effort up with a run to third place with the second team entry. With over 240 IMSA starts, Michael Shank Racing has claimed 32 podium results, including four wins.
For updates via social media for all things Le Mans, keep up to date on the latest news with #MSRLM24.