Pew Satisfied with Le Mans Debut

Photo: Brian Cleary/Michael Shank Racing

By: Kobe Lambeth

IMSA prototype entrant, Michael Shank Racing, had a successful debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans by finishing 9th in the LMP2 class with their drivers Ozz Negri Jr, John Pew, and Laurens Vanthoor. A category with Nissan-powered Oreca 05’s and Ligier JS P2’s made up the majority of the field of 23. Michael Shank Racing used a Ligier JS P2-Honda, which is the same chassis Tequila Patrón ESM used to win the first two rounds of the North American Endurance Cup, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring.

The Honda power proved to be an excellent choice as Michael Shank Racing had one of fastest Ligiers in the race. The longtime Michael Shank Racing driver, John Pew, was pleased with his first trip to Circuit de la Sarthe.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Pew.

“Although not on the podium, for our first attempt at Le Mans, I am very happy with ninth in class and finishing the race.”

A great accomplishment for the American team from Ohio finishing the race on debut at the famous twice around the clock French endurance classic. Instead of going for the overall victory, the team had to battle for class honors. Michael Shank Racing is a full-time entrant in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, which has completely different rules than the FIA World Endurance Championship. Did Pew have trouble adjusting to ACO rules?

“There are a lot of differences that took some getting used to,” said Pew.

“The slow zones, and having three safety cars, and flashing blue lights to let you know a faster car is coming behind.  Also, pit stops are different with fueling and tires being done separately, which means a driver change doesn’t have the same time pressure. Also, it took some getting used to the LMP1 cars flying by us.”

Along with having to adjust to a different world of racing, the Ligier JS P2-Honda runs in two different configurations in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and ACO sanctioned series.

“The biggest difference is the difference in tire manufacturer, and using a smaller displacement engine otherwise it’s pretty much the same,” explained Pew.

In ACO sanctioned series, teams are free to choose any tire manufacturer such as Dunlop or Michelin, while IMSA prototype teams must use spec Continental tires. On the engine side, the ACO requires a small 2.8 displacement engine, while IMSA allows the larger 3.5 displacement engine.

After a successful debut at Le Mans, do you think Michael Shank Racing will return next year?

“It’s too far in the future at this point to say, but I would love to go at it again,” said Pew.

The American fans would most likely be thrilled to see Pew and the entire Michael Shank Racing team return to Le Mans and battle for the top step on the podium.

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Photo: Brian Cleary/Michael Shank Racing

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the rearview mirror, Michael Shank Racing shifts its focus to the upcoming Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at historic Watkins Glen International. The team continues to ride the momentum from a fantastic result at Le Mans and a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. John Pew only had a few words to say about him and Ozz Negri Jr taking Michael Shank and the entire team back to victory lane.

“It felt great and was overdue,” stated Pew.

After a few setbacks in the past few years, the team was able to put together a complete race, which led them to the checkered flag. Now being stateside for the remainder of the season, what are the expectations from Michael Shank Racing?

“We can’t always control the outcome, but I am very confident in both the Michael Shank Racing crew and the Ligier HPD package for the rest of the season,” said Pew.

Tune in at 10am EST on Fox Sports 1, Sunday, July 3rd, to watch to No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda fight for overall victory against the Corvette DP’s, Deltawing, Tequila Patrón ESM, and the Mazda prototypes.

Meet: Ryan Repko

Photo: Mary Repko

By: Kobe Lambeth

This is the first edition of the “Meet” series where I will introduce you to the brightest young stars of motorsports under age 18. First, you will meet rising stock car driver, Ryan Repko, who has his sights set on making it the top level of NASCAR in the future.

“I currently race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and part time in the CARS Tour,”  said Repko.

“I began racing at the age of 8 at an indoor karting track in Mooresville. There I met several families who raced at a quarter midget track called NCQMA Speedway which is owned by Bobby Labonte. We bought a car and in our first year we won several races and a championship. My ultimate goal is to one day be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.”

Ryan Repko, a teenager, looking turn heads as he has hopes of driving in NASCAR’s top divisions in the upcoming years. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is a great place for young drivers to showcase their talent as “you never know who is watching,” according to Repko.

For example, we could see a NASCAR driver like Kyle Busch show up to an event and discover a talented driver like Repko the same way he found Erik Jones. It is good for all young drivers in the lower divisions of NASCAR to try their very best as you could be a lap away from a ride in the top three divisions of stock car racing.

Being a young stock car driver, do you think Repko has a favorite driver or role model?

“My favorite driver is Tony Stewart because he can get in any type of car and be competitive whether it is a sprint car or a cup car,” said Repko.

“My dad is a role model of mine because he pushes me to work toward my goals and to constantly learn and get better.”

It is great that young drivers have a role model in their life to help them strive to be the best they can possibly be on the track. With the inspiration of Tony Stewart and his dad behind him every step of the way, Ryan Repko has a great shot to make the move up the ladder. Away from the track, Repko seems like the typical teenager.

“Away from the track I like basketball, iRacing, and karting,” said Repko.

If you have not heard of Ryan Repko yet, then you definitely will in the years to come as the young teenager pursues his dreams of being a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Cookies and Milk?

Photo: José Mário Dias

By: Kobe Lambeth

This past weekend, the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans took place. One major storyline from France concerns the future of global prototype racing.

DPi vs LMP2

It appears that trouble is brewing between IMSA and the ACO over the future of prototype racing. It was recently announced that IMSA DPi (Daytona Prototype International) cars will not be allowed to race in the LMP2 category. Originally, the American prototypes were going to be balanced alongside the ACO-spec Gibson engine.  No need to worry about this now as DPi cars will not be allowed to race. The idea of DPi and LMP2 competing together for class honors appears to be in a garbage truck heading to a landfill.

The DPi engine ban might change the minds of team owners who want to go to Le Mans. It is known that Visit Florida Racing is looking to race in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as early as next year. The main question is, “which LMP2 chassis does the team choose?” They could run a Mazda DPi customer program, return to the General Motors family with a Cadillac DPi, or purchase the ACO-spec LMP2 Gibson. Do you think the DPi engine ban has made it easier for Visit Florida Racing to decide which car to purchase?

We will not see DPi in LMP2, but is there a future in LMP1-Lightweight? This is a very interesting idea to consider in the next few months. IMSA wants to make DPi their top class where you pick one of the four LMP2 constructors (Onroak, Oreca, Dallara, Riley/Multimatic), have the option of running multiple engines, and bodywork which will give the car identity. There is nothing wrong with IMSA’s vision as this will be their top class. LMP1 is where the ACO wants the manufacturers and rightfully so. With the four different chassis and spec engine, LMP2 is the stepping stone for teams wanting to enter LMP1. Once again, there is nothing wrong with the ACO’s philosophy because it works for their championship.

If the 2017 LMP2 regulations were the same as DPi, it would pretty much defeat the purpose of LMP1. It is completely understandable why DPi and LMP2 cannot race together from their point of view. Switching roles, what would the reaction in America be if IMSA used the ACO-spec car as their leading prototype? It would not make any sense for the two prototype divisions to be spec. The DPi formula is perfect for IMSA and they should not let the ACO dictate how they run the show. Two championships, two sets of rules, why can’t we all just get along?

A compromise between the two sanctioning would be a miracle, but anything is possible these days. Close your eyes and imagine DPi cars from the likes of Mazda and Cadillac flying down the Mulsanne straight. All you can do is dream on because this is unrealistic in the ACO’s eyes.

If the DPi cars are not welcomed to Le Mans, then why should ACO-spec cars be welcomed to Daytona? Why is IMSA’s new prototype called “Daytona Prototype International” when there is absolutely nothing international about the formula? Why are we even discussing this topic?

There are so many questions concerning the relationship between IMSA and the ACO. Maybe we need to go old school and have both parties sit down in a room with cookies and milk until a common idea can be reached. The ACO needs IMSA and vice versa. A divorce will not benefit anyone. It will hurt both series, teams, drivers, officials, and everything that makes sportscar racing beautiful. Please, I am begging for the sanctioning bodies to get their act together or we will not like the outcome of the situation. We should definitely be worried about the future of sportscar racing. Do we risk losing the link between America and France?

Will cookies and milk save this rocky relationship? Only time will tell.