Daytona Beach, Fla. (31 January 2016) - Setting a race-leading pace as the team looked to win a second title at the “World Center of Racing,” Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian delivered an impressive performance in the opening 285 laps of the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
With new and returning commercial partnerships including Curb Records, Tire Kingdom, Florida Lottery, and Zak Products joining the No. 60 Honda-Ligier effort for the 54th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the event was a highly anticipated one for the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona champion team and its drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, and Olivier Pla.
Unfortunately, despite leading 99 laps in the pursuit of victory, the effort was cut short just under 10 hours into the endurance classic when the No. 60 Tire Kingdom / Florida Lottery Honda-powered Ligier suffered an engine failure as the car led the race.
The Honda-Ligier started from third on the grid after Negri qualified the car during a very wet and treacherous session on Thursday. He moved up to run in second place through the opening laps before handing the car over to John Pew.
Pew was right up to speed in the No. 60 Tire Kingdom / Florida Lottery machine. When a gaggle of cars checked up going into the Bus Stop during one of the many frenetic restarts, the No. 60 made contact with a car ahead. Fortunately, the damage was just cosmetic and he continued to run.
Pla took over driving duties next and moved the car into the lead for the first time on Lap 130. He delivered a stellar stint, stretching his leading margin to over a 30-second advantage as he worked his way through the traffic-filled road course. The team, which saw the off season full of training result in clockwork-like pit stops, placed a fresh nose onto the car during a full course caution.
Just after the five and a half hour mark of the race, Allmendinger took control of the No. 60 Tire Kingdom / Florida Lottery Ligier and it wasn’t long before he regained the race lead to mark his 11th consecutive Rolex 24 event in which he led the race, every time with Michael Shank Racing.
Negri returned for his second stint when the clock ticked over into the seventh hour. He had the car once again comfortably in the lead, with Pew waiting in the wings to take over the driving duties when the experienced Brazilian called to the team that “something has happened,” signaling the beginning of the end.
He pulled off track and the stranded car was towed back to the garage area as the team prepared to make repairs in order to keep the laps clicking off. Unfortunately, the engine problem was a terminal one and the team was forced to retire.
“It was going exactly how we had planned – we were literally dead on where we wanted to be,” said a disappointed Team Owner Mike Shank. “When you have everything performing like it was and to have it all go away in a split second, with no warning at all, I don’t even know where to begin. I feel bad for every single person who is involved with the program, who put so much into it. Big thanks to Tire Kingdom and Florida Lottery for being on board for this, it was crucial to have their support. We were so prepared, so ready to do this. We were conserving everything we could conserve to be ready for the end of the race.”
Michael Shank Racing will now turn the page to the second round of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition on March 19 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Rolex 24 Driver Quotes:
John Pew, 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner: “The car was good—after the contact I had, the car wasn’t handling well but I kept driving it anyways. It was okay, but it was pretty unsettled in some of the corners. Then when Olivier (Pla) got in, he noticed the same thing and the team was able to fix it under a yellow. It was better after that. I was really looking forward to getting back in the car for my second stint, and to driving it when it was feeling like it should have with the nose repaired. We had a great car, and it was our race to lose. So I feel really bad for all the guys. Everyone that worked so hard: Olivier (Pla), Ozz (Negri), AJ (Allmendinger), and the whole team. All these guys are unbelievable, I’m really lucky to have them as teammates. We were just saving up for a fight at the end.”
Ozz Negri, 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner: “I had no warning (about the engine failure). We were just looking after everything, taking our time. But suddenly the engine let go. It’s tough, it’s really tough to take. But, this happens in racing. Everyone here, the Honda/HPD guys and Ligier and everyone, we are all working together. We win together, we lose together. We would have loved to show Tire Kingdom and Florida Lottery how cool it would be to get another Rolex victory and I am pretty sure we were on our way to getting another one.”
AJ Allmendinger, 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner: “Our car was very good and fun to drive. In the course of one year since when I drove the car here last year – it’s improved. It’s a great car. We had Tire Kingdom and Florida Lottery on the car – some big name sponsors for Michael Shank Racing. It’s definitely the biggest heart break ever at the 24. My heart hurts for Michael Shank Racing, especially for Mike (Shank), Ozz (Negri), John (Pew) and Olivier (Pla). I love my teammates. It’s tough not having Justin (Wilson) here, I think everyone on the team was thinking of him this morning. Olivier stepped in and he’s really helped develop this Ligier. He’s really fast and it’s just really fun to watch him drive.”
Olivier Pla, 1st Rolex 24 Start for Michael Shank Racing: “Up until that point (the engine failure), we were in perfect condition. The team has done a fantastic job, ever since I met them at the Roar Before the 24. I have to thank them for that. It has been a pleasure, how much they all welcomed me into the team – Mike (Shank), John (Pew), Ozz (Negri) and AJ (Allmendinger). It is unfortunate that it ended up like this, because we had the car to win the race. The car was fantastic. I can only say a big thanks to the team and we will fight back in Sebring.”