Fighting through 24 grueling hours of racing, the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) AutoNation / SiriusXM – LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 recovered to finish 10th on Sunday after battling through several setbacks in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Mario Farnbacher (GER), Matt McMurry (USA), Shinya Michimi (JAP) and Jules Gounon (FR) combined with the 2012 Rolex 24 winning team in hopes of claiming the coveted Rolex timepiece on Sunday afternoon.
Supporting the No. 86 Acura effort for the second Rolex 24 in a row was technology operations company, LaSalle Solutions. MSR was excited to welcome a group of 60 LaSalle Solutions employees to the race weekend as the Illinois-based organization returned to partner with the team for the second year.
Having been dealt an unfortunate set of cards in regards to the IMSA GTD class configuration prior to the event weekend, MSR knew there were several challenges ahead to be competitive.
Following a productive Roar Before the 24 that saw the team dial in the setup on the Acura NSX and show consistent pace, updated series sporting regulations for the Rolex 24 handed the Acura NSX a significant decrease in power a well as an additional 25kgs added. It became evident early in the weekend that the team would have to rely on its strategy calls to have a fighting chance for a strong finish.
Excellent execution by one of the strongest crew and driver combinations to date was the saving grace that brought home the No. 86 AutoNation / SiriusXM – LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 with a respectable 10th place finish considering its limitations which were out of the team’s control.
Making his second Rolex 24 start with MSR (first in 2015) McMurry held ground through his opening two stints to hand a clean car off to Gounon. Advancing to fourth, the Frenchman was consistent in the top five and handed the Acura off to Michimi on Lap 112 from third.
Unfortunately, a pit lane speed violation brought Michimi back in to serve a drive through penalty which put the No. 86 Acura back to 15th. 2019 GTD champion, Farnbacher took over the controls after a Lap 161 full service stop for fuel and tires. Fighting the balance of the Acura, the team made a wing adjustment on a Lap 184 pit stop in an attempt to gain more top end speed.
Transitioning from dusk to night saw an improvement in the Acura’s performance, finding a rhythm as cooler temperatures rolled in. The team made another full round of double stints of driving from Farnbacher, McMurry, Gounon and Michimi.
A Lap 326 pit stop brought Gounon in for a new set of front brakes during the second full course caution of the race. Completing the change in under two minutes, Gounon returned back on track with a fresh set of stopping power.
Although feeling more confidence in the balance of the car, the team struggled with a lack of top end speed which prevented the Acura from closing in on its competitors on the multiple high speed straightaway sections of the 3.56-mile circuit.
Michimi handed the Acura off to Farnbacher on Lap 413, but around the 3:00am mark a broken splitter forced the 2019 champion back to the garage for a replacement. After just 25 minutes, the No. 86 Acura returned on track with a new splitter and a new set of rear brakes – but was unfortunately 33rd in the overall order.
Despite being several laps down, the No. 86 Acura drivers maintained a positive attitude as they cycled through another full set of pit stops. The focus for the final quarter of the race was to bring the car home in one piece and fight for all points available to put towards the 2020 championship fight.
After only missing 25 minutes of on track action, the No. 86 Acura raced 23 hours and 35 minutes to finish 10th at the checkered of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Team and Driver Quotes:
Mike Shank, MSR Co-Owner:
“First off, I have to thank all of our sponsors that have continued to support this team year in and year out,” said Mike Shank. “This was on elf the toughest if not the toughest race. Our cars ran great and I was really impressed with the drivers and the execution of the team. We simply did not have a BoP to have any power to compete with these guys. We were just given the wrong set of boost and it rendered us spineless – we just didn’t have the punch we needed to go down the long straightaways. It’s really frustrating to me because we have such a great effort – and the execution from everyone – HPD, Acura, my team and drivers. To not be rewarded for our execution is a tough pill to swallow. This is the one event that we haven’t won yet with the NSX, so it was disappointing for sure.”
“We knew it would be a tough race, based on how everything went in practice and qualifying, so we were just pushing as hard as we could the whole time while keeping the car in one piece, because that was our only chance – just to keep it running. We had some splitter damage during the night and that put us a couple laps down, but the car was good all race long. My teammates did a great job, the crew did a great job, we just need a little more speed and a little bit of luck next time.”
“We are missing a significant amount of pace in comparison to our competitors. Our top speed is not the best and we fought with the balance of the car because of some new factors that we needed to implement for the race weekend. Having a broken splitter did not help us since it required repair which cost us 16 laps. We did everything that we could to stay competitive, but this was a tough one for us. I have to thank all of the crew and of course my co-drivers – they all did an awesome job and it was a pleasure to get to race with them.”
“The car drove great; it was just that the BoP was way off. It wasn’t fair for us, but everybody executed perfectly despite that: the team did a perfect job, the drivers did a perfect job, the strategy was great. We were really unfortunate to get the splitter damage during the night because I think we still had a chance to finish on the lead lap, which would have been really good for us, points-wise. Everyone did a great job and it was still good points for the rest of the season.”
“I’m really proud to have been able to drive for Meyer Shank Racing for the Rolex 24. It was a really hard race for us, because we got knocked down before the race even started with the BoP. But that’s GT3 racing sometimes, it’s hard to accept. I’m really impressed by the entire team and the work they have done this entire week, and at the Roar. Faultless, with no mistakes, so thanks to the crew and my engineer Dale Wise and Mike, I hope I will be back with them again one day. I’m proud to have been a part of it and wish the team the best of luck this season, I’m sure they will get the rewards they deserve with this kind of work.”
Source. Sunday Group