Gearbox Issues Set Effort Back for Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian

MSR_Racing_logoMonterey, California (4 May 2014) The second round of Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian’s California swing produced disappointment on Sunday after the Columbus, Ohio-based team suffered a gearbox issue that kept the team from finishing the Continental Tire Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round 4 of the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Ozz Negri qualified the No. 60 Curb Records/AERO entry eighth on the combined Prototype and GTLM field, with John Pew taking the controls at the start of the two-hour sprint race. Pew had a steady start when the green flag dropped as the field took off for what would become a two-hour green flag run. With track position factoring along with fuel strategy for the sprint race, Pew settled into a rhythm that saw him hold position early through the stint.

As the car became a little more of a handful and the grip became scarce on the 2.238-mile circuit, Pew was able to continue to hang tough, running as high as third before turning the car over to Negri to take to the finish.

“The car was good,” said Pew. “I got stuck behind the Patron car for awhile, and took a long time for me to get around it and when I did, about halfway through my stint, the tires had gone off a little bit. It was getting harder and harder to drive, but it was okay. Then Ozz got in the car. He did a good job, got some spots, had some quick lap times but the transmission problem just got worse and worse. The car was good and the guys did a good job. The Ford engine was fantastic. It’s too bad (about the transmission). I don’t know what to say. It’s just bad luck.”

As Negri took over the controls, the Brazilian returned to action in position to battle for a top-five spot, if not more. But despite the solid team strategy and opening stint of Pew, it was not to be the day for the team as Negri immediately had issues changing gears.

“I had problems (with the gearbox) since the beginning of my stint,” said Negri. “It just started getting worse and worse and worse, to the point where I would go from fifth gear into fourth and it would go straight into first and would lock up the rears. It was like a nightmare. As soon as I got in the car I knew something was not right.”

Negri gutted it out for lap after lap, working to race around the problem despite having to cede several positions through his run. After a stop to change a control box for the paddle shifter, Negri returned to race action, only to have to call it a day a lap later as the team was forced behind the wall with over 15 minutes left to go in the race.

“I’m disappointed,” said Negri. “I was looking forward to the race after the warm-up. Even with all the problems, I thought the car had good speed.  I don’t know what to say, other than we’ll keep on trying hard. The car was competitive. We’ll go on to the next one.”

The 2014 season has seen a brand new championship, a new technical package, and a new schedule with an all-star roster of tracks. With each new challenge, Michael Shank Racing has been working to find the right solution and will apply that same approach to prepare for the next sprint event just three weeks from now.

“We’ve raced these cars for a very long time and this just hasn’t been an issue in the past but with this technical package we’ve had some transmission setbacks,” said team owner Mike Shank. “It’s frustrating because it’s keeping us from accomplishing what we are capable of with this EcoBoost motor. We’ve had quick cars and good pit work, but you have to have everything going exactly right to bring home a result. We’ll go back and see if we can find out what’s causing this and come back stronger in Detroit for Ford’s home race.”

The next round of the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship takes place later this month at Belle Isle in Detroit May 30-31.