Pataskala, Ohio. (17 May 2016) – Fresh from a breakthrough victory in the most recent round of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian is pleased to announce that the team will race in Detroit’s IMSA Sports Car Classic on June 4th with the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda-powered Ligier.
Full release here:
“ http://www.michaelshankracing.com/katherine-legge-to-team-with-ozz-negri-in-honda-powered-ligier-at-belle-isle-for-michael-shank-racing-with-curbagajanian/#more-28682(Shank competing in Detroit)”
So what’s the story here? Wasn’t Shank going to skip the Detroit Race in order to concentrate on the team’s LeMans 24-hour effort (The mandatory test day is the day after the Detroit Race)? And wasn’t Honda OK with this?
Yes, they were. And some of the Shank team will still will be skipping the race. That’s why they are bringing Brit Katherine Legge in as co-driver (at Honda’s expense) for Oz Negri. The normal co-driver, John Pew, will be in LeMans testing. And the Delta Wing, which Legge normally drives, does not participate in street races. So it all works out.
But why is Honda helping Shank put the car in the Detroit race? The release points out that after winning three of the four IMSA races so far this year, Honda finds itself in first place in the manufacturer’s championship. By not participating, Honda would cede the lead to Chevy almost by default.
Taking that at face value, it seems like a fine reason for Honda to fly Oz Negri from Europe to Detroit and back, and to hire staff to run the car for Shank as well as Legge to drive with Negri (Legge should be a considerable improvement over John Pew, by the way).
But is there anything else? I think there might be. And remembering that I have no inside information from Honda, let me lay out my conspiracy theory:
On the surface, the Detroit race is not terribly important to IMSA . It’s a short race, and the series is playing second fiddle to Indycar. Under the surface, there is going to be a lot more media people in attendance at this race than at most IMSA events. There are several reasons for this:
- Detroit is the event immediately after the Indy 500. Many people who don’t cover any Indycar races, cover Indycar AND Detroit, especially media based in the midwest.
- It’s Detroit, and most of the automotive media is based in Detroit.
- Even companies that are NOT based in Detroit have very significant PR staffs in Detroit. This includes companies like Honda and Mazda. Of course, this goes double for companies like Ford and GM, that are based in Detroit.
So, if anyone is going to make an announcement about IMSA , this would be the place to do it.
What kind of announcements? Well, no one has announced that they will be participating in the DPI class of IMSA next season. And time is running out. If things are not announced at Detroit, the next obvious event is not until Petit LeMans at the end of the season. So I would expect SOMETHING to be announced at Detroit.
Anything specific? It is pretty much an Open Secret that GM will be participating in DPI , with the Cadillac brand replacing Chevy, and the Cadillac Twin Turbo DOHC V6 replacing the Corvette V8 as the power plant. It is also widely speculated that the car will be made by Dallara. And this would be a good spot for an unveiling. Belle Isle is nothing if not picturesque.
Similarly, everyone will be shocked if Mazda is not back with its AER engine and Multimatic Chassis.
As for Honda, in my last blog post I noted the things about the 2017 Honda sports car program that have yet to be announced. Could some of those things be announced in Detroit? Sure. And if Honda was planning to make IMSA announcements in Detroit, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a pretty, race-winning car on the track for everyone to gawk at? Put another way, it would be weird to announce things at an event you were skipping, wouldn’t it?
Is that part of the reason for Honda to hire a driver for the race (Legge), and help Oz Negri with travel arrangements from France to Detroit and back, as well as hire some staff to run the car for Shank? Hmm.
The logical conclusion to this would be to make the leap that Katherine Legge herself is part of this package. That might be a leap too far, but as far as I know she does not have a ride next year since the DeltaWing program looks like it’s ending.
Could be the announcements will be as interesting as the race.