MSR takes Ninth at Le Mans


Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Achieves Le Mans Finish, Takes Ninth Place

– Highest placing American team
– Practice pays off as Vanthoor shines in the rain, leading the LMP2 field
– 14th overall, ninth in huge LMP2 class
– 24 hour race marks completion of 30 days in Europe for Michael Shank Racing
– Team overcomes setbacks (Test Day crash, Motor change / penalty, contact late in race), adapts to new track, rules, co-driver, and tires
– MSR leads race early and races all the way to the finish
– Focus now forward to Watkins Glen and Mosport back-to-back IMSA weekends
– Preparation started one year ago when Pew and Shank visited 2015 running of Le Mans 24Le Mans, France (19 June 2016) – Racing on a global stage that included 263,500 spectators on hand to watch the race in person, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian completed one of the toughest events in motorsport this weekend to take a ninth place LMP2 class finish in the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.




Taking the checkered flag after 24 hours of racing reflected a strong team response to a number of challenges and potential setbacks in the lead up to, and throughout, the race, all of which were responded to with the determination by the tight-knit American team to make it through to the checkered flag.

The race finish also marked the culmination of over one year of planning for Team Owner Mike Shank and his squad, which left the familiar faces of friends and family back in Ohio over one month ago to test in Italy in preparation for the French endurance classic.

Drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, and Laurens Vanthoor shared the Honda-powered Ligier to excellent effect, leading the race early despite rain conditions that were so severe that the race started by circulating under yellow flag conditions behind the safety car for nearly an hour.

After overcoming a crash on the test day ahead of the race week, Michael Shank Racing was again put on the back foot following the need to make a motor change after the first qualifying session. The team rallied to get the change completed in time for Thursday’s qualifying sessions, doing so before the rain fell so that all the drivers were able to set times and retain the squad’s fifth place grid spot. The qualifying effort marked the best among the nine other Ligier machines entered in the event.

Thursday night’s running also saw the team decide to give Vanthoor, who was making his second career start in the race, some time to get comfortable with the car in the rain. That came in handy on race day.

After the packed grid was cleared, a long roster of traditional pre-race ceremonies started under a clear and warm French summer day. But before the anthems were complete, the rain had started to once again fall as the area continued to experience record-setting precipitation.

Vanthoor’s Thursday night experience was put to use once the race started in earnest. Coupled with a courageous tire selection from the pit wall, Vanthoor’s pace in the wet saw the team lead its first laps at Le Mans in its debut appearance on the 8.47-mile circuit.

Unfortunately, the Thursday afternoon motor change also meant that the team was required to take a five minute stop and hold penalty per the regulations once the race started. After serving the penalty, the team fell deep in the 60-car field.

But the goal was to finish, and that was exactly what the team did through the following 20+ hours of racing. Cycling through driver changes, pit stops for fuel and tire changes, Pew, Negri, and Vanthoor continued to move the car up the order, improving all the way through the finish to cross the line 14th overall 50-car field and ninth in the competitive LMP2 class of 22 cars.

“It’s really nice to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said a proud Mike Shank following the race. “We led laps today which is a really exciting moment in our careers. We stayed in the fight and we battled a penalty and just some little things that put us back. We had nothing major go wrong. At the end of the day we just kept plugging away, and we got a top-10 in our first time here at Le Mans. I think we represented well and we tried really hard. I am really, really grateful to John and Stephanie Pew for being so committed to this. We also had some of our team sponsors here with us this weekend and that was awesome.

“And all of our guys – we had a group of 30 people here in total that supported this event with no complaints. It’s just a grateful feeling. I think it’ll sink in later on when we go back and look at all of the pictures and videos and all the other cool stuff we got from this.

“It’s all worth it. I mean four weeks on the road between Italy, Detroit and here. It’s a major accomplishment in our lives. We started as just a Midwestern guy with a two car garage and a Bugeye Sprite in Gahanna, Ohio. And at the time, God only knew how I’d go racing. To think that we led at Le Mans and finished the race, that’s a big deal. That’s the American dream. I’m so proud and grateful to have the chance to do this and to be surrounded by the guys that I’ve got on this team.”

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will next be in action in two weeks’ time for the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen on June 30-July 3 as the team returns to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.