TUDOR UNITED SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP PETIT LE MANS RACE REPORT
October 5, 2015 by Honda
Circuit: Road Atlanta (2.54-mile road course) Braselton, GA
2014 Winner: Jordan Taylor / Ricky Taylor / Max Angelelli (Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet)
Weather: Rain, cool, 53 degrees F
Disappointing Finish to Competitive Season for Michael Shank Racing, Honda
◾Crash in rain-plagued race ends Petit Le Mans run
◾Honda finishes third in the 2015 manufacturers' championship
A promising start for the Honda-powered Michael Shank Racing team at the season-ending Petit Le Mans ended in disappointment with a crash in the fourth-hour of the rain-soaked race Saturday at Road Atlanta. Continuing rains and track flooding led to the scheduled 10-hour event being checkered two hours early.
The final race in the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship got off to a strong start for Honda and the MSR organization, as Oswaldo 'Ozz' Negri led the field in his Ligier JS P2 Honda in Thursday's first practice session. But after opening to clear skies and mild temperatures, rain showers moved into the Atlanta area later on Thursday, affecting the rest of the weekend for competitors and fans alike.
In Thursday's night practice, driver John Pew aquaplaned off the circuit during a heavy shower, impacting the front straight wall. Although Pew was uninjured, the #60 Ligier Honda sustained heavy damage, requiring repairs to the carbon-fiber tub. Fortunately, fellow prototype competitor DeltaWing Racing offered up the facilities of their nearby Elan Motorsports Technologies base and personnel. After an all-night repair session and chassis re-build on Friday, the Ligier-Honda was ready to return to the track in time for Saturday morning's final pre-race practice.
More heavy rain greeted the 36-car starting field on race day, and this time Negri aquaplaned into the barrier exiting Turn 5 during the pre-race warmup session. Although the resulting damage was relatively minor, the MSR team had to scramble to complete repairs on the grid as the 11 a.m. EDT race start time approached.
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Unfortunately, the Ligier Honda once again aquaplaned off the track in the Turn 3-4 'esses', and Pew made heavy contact with the barriers. Fortunately, Pew again escaped injury in the crash, but the resulting damage was too severe to be repaired and the team retired from the contest. The race was later red-flagged and ended early due to the weather and track conditions continued to deteriorate.
The Ligier JS P2 chassis fielded by MSR is powered by a production-based 2.8-liter Honda HR28TT V6 engine, developed for competition by HPD from the Honda 'J35' series of passenger vehicle V6 engines, with improvements including twin turbochargers. Key production-based components include the block and cylinder heads, direct-injection fuel system, valve train components, drive-by-wire throttle, alternator, sensors and fasteners. The engine even features a stock Honda oil filter. A 3.5-liter variation of this engine will be employed in the newly-renamed WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in 2016.
The 2016 WeatherTech Sportscar Championship opens January 30 at Daytona International Speedway and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Mike Shank (team owner, #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda) on today's race: 'I can't say enough about my team and their work ethic. They never, ever give up. They just do whatever it takes. I just want to say 'thank you' to them. An extra special thanks to DeltaWing and Elan Motorsports. So many people in the paddock offered to help us out. DeltaWing/Elan made it happen. There was no stopping this group, and I'm grateful for that. We'll be ready for November for testing with our new 3.5-liter Honda engine. I just can't say enough about everybody that worked so hard to have this car on track today.'
The treacherous conditions continued in the race, with constant rain that varied in intensity throughout the event. Starting 13th, at the rear of the prototype field as a result of missing qualifying, Negri moved up to sixth before handing off to co-driver Pew after two hours behind the wheel. As conditions worsened, a large portion of the third hour was run under the caution flag, then returned to green flag racing in the fourth hour as the rain decreased in intensity.