It’s been a busy two months for Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) with the team having claimed its second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the Acura NSX GT3 following the season finale at Sebring International Raceway in November.
Less than 12 hours after the checkered flag in Sebring, MSR received its Acura ARX-05 and began its journey back to Ohio to begin preparations for the 2021 season. Fast forward just three weeks and MSR put the Acura ARX-05 on track at Daytona International Speedway for the very first time for a two-day test this Tuesday and Wednesday.
MSR full-season drivers Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla were joined by AJ Allmendinger in Daytona to turn the first official laps in the Acura. With the annual Roar Before the 24 rescheduled to just one week prior to the Rolex 24, Mike Shank found it crucial to begin learning the new platform as early on as possible.
“It was absolutely the right decision for us to do this test,” said Mike Shank. “The two days that we were in Daytona were all about learning the car and getting the drivers and engineers comfortable and familiar with it. Having Dane (Cameron) here has been a great resource for everyone since he has three years of experience with the car. He has really set the tone this week and he fits in great with the team.”
Having hands on experience in the development of the Acura ARX-05 prior to its 2018 IMSA debut, Cameron has been an important team member during the test, sharing his in-depth knowledge of the platform.
“Things got off to a good start for us at Daytona,” said Cameron. “The guys have done a great job with the car given the short turnaround from when they received it and got it in condition to test. We more or less went through everything and we covered a lot of ground. Balance-wise, everything was good and close to where we needed to be. We did some good procedural exercises to lay the groundwork for what will be a hectic Roar with the qualifying race. The test has been a good chance for everyone to get in the car. AJ (Allmendinger) did a really great job and got up to speed real quick. I’ve been enjoying putting the teacher hat on and it’s accelerated the process for us for sure.”
Pla will be making his return to MSR after his 2016 run with the team which saw him step in as endurance driver and claim a big victory at Petit Le Mans with teammates Ozz Negri and John Pew. Pla has plenty of experience onboard Prototype machinery, but the Daytona test was the first with the Acura.
“It was a very positive test and it all went very well considering it was the first time the team has run the car,” said Pla. “We were able to run some laps to understand the car and get comfortable with it, and things like making sure the seat fits. The Acura wasn’t too different from what I am used to. We used the test to learn all of the systems, buttons and strategy so that when the engineer tells you to change something you know how to do it. I’d say that getting used to the traction control and braking was a focus for me. We did rely on Dane (Cameron) a lot since he knows the car so well. There really isn’t a better person to work with and it’s been nice to benefit from his experience.”
2012 Rolex 24 winner Allmendinger will be making his 15th Rolex 24 start with MSR in January and was eager to get back to Prototype competition. Having competed in the GTD category with MSR for the last three years, there was an adjustment period for Allmendinger to get used to the powerful Prototype.
“The first run for me was almost like re-living the first time that I got in a Champ Car,” said Allmendinger. “The first time I hit the throttle it shoved me back in my seat and it was then that I realized how quick the car really was. The braking and the downforce took me some time to get used to. You brake so late, that you have to just trust the grip that the car has and that it is going to stick. It’s really a proper racecar that you can attack the corners with. You can’t really compare the car to the last Prototype I drove because that was four years ago. It’s just such a big difference in speed. But I’m really excited for the Rolex, it will be my 15th time racing the 24 with Shank.”
MSR will head back to its home base in Pataskala, Ohio to begin preparations for the 2021 season which will begin with the Roar Before the 24 on January 22-24. The Rolex 24 At Daytona is set for the following weekend, January 27-31.
Source. Sunday Group