MSR Third at Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Third in Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen

–          First Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen podium result
–          Fastest lap of the weekend as Olivier Pla turns 1:34.515-second lap
–          Honda leads Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup championship,              second in IMSA Manufacturer Championship

Watkins Glen, N.Y. (3 July 2016) – It was another big day for Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship staged its sixth race of the season with the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen event at Watkins Glen International. Drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri and Olivier Pla combined for a third place result in the six-hour classic to mark the team’s first-ever Sahlen’s 6 hour podium.

The positive result was a combination of strategy, experience and excellent car preparation, and came on a picture-perfect day at the Glen with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures on hand for the full day of running.

Negri opened the race from the second row after qualifying the No. 60 Honda-Ligier third on the grid for the six-hour classic. The race ran at a furious pace, and following a clean and consistent stint, Negri pitted about one hour and 30 minutes in and handed the car over to Pla.

The No. 60 machine returned eighth in line with Pla working his way forward to carve out time from the leaders despite some heavy and uncooperative Daytona Prototype traffic. Pla ultimately ran as high as third before pitting just past the ½ way point of the race to turn the car over to Pew.

A full course yellow early in Pew’s stint saw the leaders take to pit road while Pew stayed out and restarted second. He delivered a stellar stint behind the wheel of the Honda-Ligier machine keeping the car right in the mix as Pew worked to stay with the lead pack. Turning laps in the 1 minute, 37 second range, Pew enabled the car to remain on the lead lap as the race reached its turning point.

Just before the 4 hour mark, a car spun off track and the Michael Shank Racing team expected a full course yellow and called Pew to pit lane. The team performed a flawless stop and Negri strapped into the No. 60 Honda-Ligier, but unfortunately that caution never came and Negri found himself in seventh position for the duration of the stint.

Because of the green flag pit stop, Negri was just 10 seconds ahead of the leader and the veteran Brazilian racer pushed with everything he had to keep the car on the lead lap.

Fortunately, the third of six cautions flew with 1 hour and 30 minutes remaining and the team utilized the break in action to bring Negri in for a full service stop and hand the car over to Pla who would anchor the squad to the finish. That fortuitous caution saw the field bunch back up, which eliminated the large margin between the No. 60 and the lead pack.

Upon the restart, Pla was mired in the slower traffic of the PC and GT classes and when he entered the Bus Stop a very slow GTD car caused Pla to hit the brakes which sent the Ligier veering off track. But the Frenchman was able to quickly collect the car and regain momentum in the flash of an eye.
As Radio Le Mans called the action, they referred to Pla’s reflexes as “super-human” as he returned to the track unscathed after avoiding what appeared to be a certain collision.

The team’s final pit stop saw the decision to stay on Continental Tires pay off as the tires provided speed and traction all the way to the checkered flag despite racing against many that had much fresher tires. In fact, through the remainder of Pla’s stint – in which he set the fastest lap of the entire weekend (1:34.515) – the race would see two more caution periods with the No. 60 Honda-Ligier third for the final restart with 15 minutes to go in the race. Pla delivered a stellar run in the final laps as he chased down the two Daytona Prototypes ahead, but without the same corner-exit torque and speed of the Daytona Prototypes, he was unable to advance further up the order in the waning laps and took third at the checkered flag.

After having finished fourth in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen six times (’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’13), the result was a welcome one for the team.

“It feels good,” said Team Owner Mike Shank of the Sahlen’s 6 Hour breakthrough podium result. “I really felt like we deserved to win this race. Everybody did great. John’s (Pew) second run of his stint was the critical apex of the race for us. By him running 37s and 38s it kept us when we pitted to put Ozz (Negri) in, it kept us on the lead lap. Ozz got in the car and pushed forward and stayed ahead of the leaders. We got the yellow at the right time and Ollie (Pla) was back in business there at the end. The team just did a great job today. Good strategy calls by the engineers and a good car. The car got better throughout, it really came to us. All the drivers worked well together. It was just a good solid effort.”

Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will remain at the Glen to prepare the car for next weekend’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park event before traveling north for the race in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

The team aims to bring its Watkins Glen podium momentum next weekend to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where the team finished second in last year’s race.