ATLANTA, Georgia (October 3, 2016) - For AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology customers, the finish is everything. This weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship finale saw long-time AERO™ partners Michael Shank Racing score a dramatic victory in the 19th running of the Petit Le Mans on Saturday.
The team, with drivers Ozz Negri, John Pew, and Olivier Pla, dominated the race meeting—leading every practice session, scoring pole, setting a new record for fastest race lap, and leading the most laps. But even with that kind of pace, the details were still critical as the team won the 10 hour race by just over three seconds with their Honda-powered Ligier.
“Everything we do with this team is fueled by our partnerships, and we’ve been really thrilled to have AERO with us and be a part of this victory,” said team owner Mike Shank, who celebrated his team’s 250th Prototype start with another custom AERO livery that was also signed by hundreds of MSR fans ahead of the race start. “The car was fast, and looked awesome. When you look at the fact we won by just a few seconds—thinking about the weight savings that AERO has over traditional paint—it all adds up for us to have this kind of result.”
The unanimous fan favorite race victory by Michael Shank Racing wasn’t the only highlight for AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology teams, as Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen clinched the 2016 IMSA GTD class championship in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3. Nielsen, who made history as the first female IMSA champion since 2009, drove the opening three hours of the race to lock in her drive time for the championship with Balzan.
"I was pretty tired when I got out of the car, but I felt great," said Nielsen. "To be honest, it was a bit mentally draining to be in the car longer than a regular IMSA race distance. The team did a great job of keeping me calm, talking to me, keeping me updated and giving me feedback. I really had to be careful about every move that I made out there on track. It feels absolutely amazing to be the champions of the 2016 GTD class.”
The IMSA Championship was the second major title of the season for an AERO™-equipped Ferrari by Scuderia Corsa, as the team captured the 2016 Pirelli Challenge GTA Championship with Martin Fuentes earlier this year.
The team's second entry ran in the hotly contested GTLM class, as the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Andrea Bertolini, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra, also carried the compelling AERO™ colors. The entry ran competitively in the top-five of the GTLM class until a fire in the pits forced an early retirement.
Also carrying AERO™ into the GTLM class battle were the dueling BMW Team RLL entries, which were both hoping to make the final race of the all-new BMW M6 GTLM’s debut season a big one. Unfortunately, two different doses of bad racing luck saw BMW Team RLL miss another top result in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) due to technical issues.
John Edwards, Lucas Luhr, and Kuno Wittmer came sixth in the GTLM class after being hit by a fellow competitor late in the race to cause an ongoing alternator issue. The sister No. 25 entry of Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, and Augusto Farfus also was dealt with some bad racing luck after a steering rack was damaged, with repairs eventually forcing an early retirement for the entry.
“It is a disappointing end to the year,” said team principal Bobby Rahal. “The 25 car was having quite a good race and maybe could have had a podium, but it had issues at the end. The 100 car got taken out by a Ford GT early on, then we had an alternator failure because of that later on. Everyone worked so hard this year and I feel bad for the team and bad for the drivers as you hate to end it on this note. That is racing. Now we put our heads down and get ready for next year and hopefully have a much better one.”
AERO just missed out on a podium in Friday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season finale as the No. 76 AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology Ford Shelby GT350R-C of Pierre Kleinubing and Paul Holton brought home a fourth place finish to close out the year.
Photos courtesy of Sunday Management Group