Michael Shank Racing led the way at a two-day test for Grand-Am Rolex Series teams at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Team drivers Michael Valiante and Ozwaldo Negri top the charts for the second day in the unofficial timing results on Thursday.
The test saw the return of the Riley machine that was nearly destroyed in a fire at Watkins Glen with Valiante behind the wheel, and Valiante posted the quickest unofficial time of the test with the same Riley that was a ball of flame the last time he drove it. Valiante also spent time behind the wheel of the No. 60 Crown Royal Ford Riley as he rotated in with Negri and John Pew as the team continued to work with the new Grand-Am paddle-shift system.
“It's amazing to be back in this car given what it was like the last time I was in it!” said Valiante. “We are still working to find out everything we can about the new Continental tires and see what they like setup wise, and this was a really productive test. It was good to also get into the 60 car and see what that car felt like and be able to offer some feedback on the paddle shifters. All in all we had a very good two days down here and now everyone is focused on January and the 24.”
“This test went about as well as we could have possibly hoped, and I'd have to say I'm proud of this team and not just how well we worked this week, but also to see that Riley back out there and running so fast, says a lot about the work the guys have done back in the shop to put us in this position,” said Shank. “Of course, it's just a test and we have a lot of work to do yet, but we set out some very clear goals for the week and I feel like we checked everything off the list to get ready not just for the 24, but also for when we are back here again in March.”
The test, which also provided teams with data to optimize setups for the new Continental control tire for the Rolex Sports Car Series, saw Negri atop the charts in the afternoon session on Thursday.
“I'm very encouraged with how strong we were this week and it felt like we just kept filling our notebooks with more and more information,” said Negri. “John had a very good day on Wednesday and was even more impressive on Thursday. He works so hard, and it's great when he not only puts up some of the times that he did on fresh tires, but also with some good pace all the way through the stint. I think this new tire package is going to put more into the drivers' hands, and that should be an advantage for us. Daytona cannot come soon enough!”
Grand-Am teams will test at Daytona International in the "Roar Before the 24" on Jan. 7-9, with the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona set for Jan. 29.