Looking to close in on the GT-Daytona Championship, Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) came up short this weekend after the team fought through adversity during Round 8 at Road America on Sunday to emerge with a seventh and eighth place result.
The MSR squad returned with the No. 86 MSR Acura NSX GT3 driven by Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente along with the sister entry of Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks in the No. 93 MSR Acura NSX GT3.
Coming into the weekend just 10-points behind the championship lead, the four remaining races on the 2018 schedule are all critical for the No. 86 MSR Acura NSX GT3 championship ambitions.
Co-driving the No. 86, both Legge and Parente had a quick pace early in the weekend which was unfortunately not reflected in its seventh place qualifying result.
The entry of Aschenbach and Marks saw the team fight to correct a pair of mechanical issues during practice and qualifying which minimized the car’s on-track time and hampered the opportunity to take a strong grid position in qualifying
The early stages of the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase saw both MSR Acuras lead the GTD field during the first stint of the race. Marks lead three laps and participated in nose-to-tail battles before pitting on lap 25 for fuel, tires and a driver change.
“I thought my stint went really well,” said Marks. “We weren’t really sure what to expect for the race since we had some issues earlier in the weekend. I just focused on getting a good clean start so that we could put ourselves in the best position possible before Lawson got in.”
Aschenbach followed Marks’ lead by posting quick laps until he made contact with an early-braking Prototype that saw him forced to serve a penalty for the contact.
“Honestly, we do not have the same pace as our competitors,” said Aschenbach. “We look at the data, look at the speeds, and we are doing everything we can to keep up. We just don’t have it. The team is working hard, everyone is doing what they need to do but we just don’t have that pace. Unfortunately, we got that drive through penalty. It’s frustrating to go through that with a Prototype, especially on this track.”
The No. 86, which was eager for a good result this weekend, held on throughout the race despite sustaining damage early on which compromised the performance of the Acura. Utilizing an alternative fuel strategy which would bring the 86 to the front of the field unfortunately did not play out according to plan as five total caution periods hindered the strategy.
“In the first stint the car had a little more front grip,” said Parente. “I think as the race went on the damage sustained during the first stint got progressively worse. We know we didn’t have the same straightline speed as other people, and it made it worse to have damage and struggle to even turn right. Strategy didn’t go our way and I thought we could do some more but we couldn’t.”
Legge was hoping for a better result as she looked to close the championship gap,but admits that the lengthy 4.048-mile track wasn’t well-suited for the Acura NSX GT3 under the current balance settings from the series.
“The first part of the race was pretty hectic and I got into the back of another car,” said Legge. “That caused some damage to the front of the car which didn’t help us with the handling. This track has such long straights and it was obvious that we couldn’t keep up with our competitors. Hopefully we will see a better result when we go to VIR.”
With the second half of the IMSA season underway, Mike Shank has put all his effort into earning the team’s first championship, but is frustrated to not see the pace come race day.
“We really needed this weekend to go well for us to keep the fight going in the championship, but we just don’t have the speed that some of the other brands have so it is a big struggle,” said Shank. “We’ve been in that position before and sometimes you can pull a rabbit out of your hat with strategy but we just didn’t have that play our way today. It is frustrating and hopefully they will keep working on the balance for everyone and we can be back in the fight at VIR.”
Round 9 of the IMSA season continues as the series heads to Virginia International Raceway on August 17th – 19th.
Source. Sunday Group