Michael Shank Racing laid down a notice of intent in the ‘Roar Before the 24’ test at Daytona International Speedway, Michael Valiante setting the best time of the three day test in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Ohio based team scored their first win in the 24 last season and with strong showings across the three day session set the benchmark for the rest of the Rolex Series field to chase at the start of the 2013 campaign.
Valiante, in the team’s #6 Ford-Riley set the best time of the weekend in the Sunday morning session, completing a lap of the 3.56 mile road course at the track in 1:42.056.
“It’s always nice to be one of the quickest cars during the test days,” said Valiante. “I think we’ll have a good shot in qualifying. It’s hard to say where we’ll be exactly but it’s always nice to know that you have a car that at least has a shot to be on the front row. I think a lot of what GRAND-AM decides to do with the rules will dictate who will be on the front row. For sure you want to start first and qualify on pole but at the end of the day it doesn’t really mean anything for this race because you could start last and still win. If the rules are really close and we have a shot at it, it would be great to be on the front row.”
MSR potential to challenge for the front row for the Rolex 24 was underlined as A.J. Allmendinger recorded the third best time of the test in the #60 car – the two cars sandwiching Dane Cameron’s lap for Daytona Prototype newcomers Team Sahlen.
“What Ozz and John did here at the test [in December], we have a really good package,” said Allmendinger. “What I like the most is that I can get in the car right away and go fire off the laps. I don’t have to keep working hard to just put in one lap. The car is pretty consistent. I think we still need to fine tune it a little bit overall but I’m pleased with it. The car has great speed – both cars have great speed. We don’t know exactly how fast everybody else is but overall I feel pretty good about it.”
“We couldn’t be happier. We were P1 in five of the eight sessions and we just kept learning about the cars,” team team owner Mike Shank. “We took a couple steps back in there – it wasn’t all perfect but the best part is that all of the drivers got tons of laps in. We had no problems mechanically at all in either car. We have a good foot forward for the race and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do well.”
Michael Shank Racing also confirmed their driver line-ups of the Rolex 24 with last year’s winning team of Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, John Pew and Ozz Negri reforming in the #60, though Negri’s participation rests on his recovered from an injury he sustained while mountain biking. Marcos Ambrose, who tested the car in place of Negri, is being retained by the team to support them if necessary.
Valiante will share the #6 with Chris Cumming, Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalves, the last two part of the team that chased home their winning teammates in 2012 completing a lead lap finish in third place.