Meyer Shank Racing made a strong debut run in the Acura ARX-05 to fourth in this weekend’s 59th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona. The race finish was the first chapter as the two-time defending IMSA championship squad returns to Prototype class competition with Acura as the team targets a third consecutive IMSA championship title.
MSR drivers Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla, Juan Pablo Montoya and AJ Allmendinger had their eyes set on claiming the coveted Rolex Cosmograph Daytona timepiece following 24 hours of day-to-night racing.
Clocking in a record 39 pit stops to support the Acura through 807 laps of competition, the Meyer Shank Racing team pushed through 12 caution periods to finish its 18th Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was not an easy feat with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship welcoming in an additional class (LMP3) and bringing in an impressive and traffic-generating 49 car field of multi-class machinery.
Starting from fourth on the grid, Cameron took the green flag and worked into his race pace through the first 30-minute fuel stint. Cameron’s opening stint gave the team plenty of information to make the most out of the next 22 hours of racing.
With the green flag flying for a late afternoon (3:40pm) race start, Pla’s first stint saw the fast Frenchman racing into darkness. But, the opening stint for Pla was not trouble-free as he managed a throttle return problem. The team immediately worked to diagnose the issue after seeing fluctuating data that matched Pla’s feedback.
Unable to diagnose the problem during the third driver exchange between Pla and Montoya, the team continued to monitor the car with no immediate need to pit. Montoya offered additional feedback and was able to determine that an electrical box on the right side of the cockpit had come loose occasionally sliding down from the g-forces and sticking to the throttle pedal.
Masterful work by Montoya allowed him to grab and hold the electrical box coming out of the bus stop until pitting under yellow so that the team could secure it into place. With that potentially detrimental issue solved, the team continued its quick pace deep into the night, which generated just one caution period in eight hours of running.
Allmendinger made his first appearance back in Prototype competition, having last driven a Daytona Prototype for MSR in 2016. Allmendinger’s 15 years of Rolex 24 experience and his 2012 overall victory was apparent as the veteran diced through traffic in his nighttime stint, holding the No. 60 Acura between a constant fourth and fifth place.
While temperatures dropped, the MSR team made the decision to focus on double stinting its tires during the night in hopes that saving its slicks for the final hours would move the team back up through the running order later in the day.
Upon daybreak, the Rolex clock still had seven hours remaining and there was a lot to fight for all the way to the checkered flag. Following a caution period with two and a half hours to go, Cameron took the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura to P1 where he made the restart.
Handing the Acura off to Montoya for the final two stints, the 2019 IMSA champion preserved what was left of the fading balance of the car. But never backing out of the fight, Montoya was able to remain in contention and managed to advance one final spot in the final minutes of the race. Crossing the finish line with a battle-worn Acura, Montoya brought it home in fourth – a promising way to kick off the 2021 IMSA season.
The Meyer Shank Racing squad will head back to Pataskala, Ohio to begin preparations for the next IMSA endurance classic – the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17-20.
“It was an incredibly intense 24 hours that our guys worked so hard on. I’m really pleased with how all of the drivers came together for the first race, I think everyone gelled really well together. Unfortunately, we were not able to find a balance that the car liked and stayed consistent with. It was frustrating to have the car keep giving us fits the entire race and I hope that when we go home and take the car apart we can find the issue. The crew did a great job handling everything as well as our engineering team. We are proud to be a part of the Acura family and congratulations to Acura for securing their first Rolex 24 Hour win.”
“All in all it was an okay day. Our goal for this race was to put ourselves in contention at the end of the day and we did that by finishing on the lead lap. The Meyer Shank Racing boys did a great job preparing the car and executing pit stops without issues. It is probably the first time in six or seven years that I have run this race without a problem on a pit stop. I am very pleased with the effort the guys put in with a short off-season and a large transition to a new program. We lacked a bit of speed today, but we were able to compete for a victory when it counted. We will take good points from today for our championship effort and we’ll move forward and turn the page to Sebring.”
“It was a difficult race from the beginning but it happens in motorsports. I can’t thank the Meyer Shank Racing crew enough for everything they did during these 24 hours. They did a fantastic job putting me in a great position when I took over the car. Even when we had a problem, they kept me calm. We will learn from today and look to come back even stronger at Sebring.”
Juan Pablo Montoya:
“I thought we had a very strong car from all the testing we did. When we started the race, it was off. We all struggled and at the end I could keep up with the lead pack but I had nothing to be able to compete with them. I was killing myself just to run at the same pace. Otherwise, I had a blast working with Meyer Shank Racing. You can’t win them all, and that is racing. It is cool to see Acura finally get a win here at Daytona, so big congratulations to them.”
“I’m really proud of the effort by all the men and women at Meyer Shank Racing. We kept fighting through the race and never gave up. Having no mechanical issues the entire race with a brand new car is amazing. We came so close to a podium, and it’s disappointing not to, but overall I really enjoyed driving the Acura DPi. As always, it’s an honor to drive for Mike Shank, I can’t believe this was my 15th Rolex 24 with him. And I can’t thank Dane, Oli and JPM enough for helping me get up to speed and be a part of this team.”
Source. Sunday Group