Michael Shank Racing has taken steps to increase its chances of claiming back-to-back Grand-Am Rolex Series victories to end the 2008 campaign, signing Raphael Matos and Ryan Dalziel to strengthen its line-up for the SunRichGourmet.com
1000 at Miller Motorsports Park on 21 September.
Fresh from a rare victory in the Supercar Life 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Labor Day weekend, the team his high expectations for the Miller race, having won the inaugural, nine-hour, event at the Utah venue in 2006 with Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri.
Although the pairing were one of only a few two-man teams to contest the season-ending marathon, MSR is likely to employ more hands for this year's 1000km, seven hour, round. Both Dalziel and Matos have relationships with MSR that stretch back several years, to well before they had made their names in North America.
“We're excited about having Rafa and Ryan race with us at Miller because, not only are they fast, but they also understand how to work GT class traffic and how to be patient in the longer distance races,” said team owner Mike Shank, “They also both already know almost everyone on the team, so that will also give us a head start in terms of communication and working together. Winning last weekend was obviously a big highlight for everyone on the team, and there's no reason we shouldn't expect to be competitive again out at Miller.”
Matos made an impressive start to his 2008 season with a GT class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and then carried his 2007 Formula Atlantic Championship-winning form into an Indy Lights campaign that sees him holding a three-point advantage with one round remaining in the season.
“I've followed Rafa since Divina [Galica] first pointed him out as an unusually talented racer when he moved here to the States with not a penny to his name and all of four words of English to his credit,” said MSR regular Patterson, “Oz [Negri] coached him when he first started with Skip Barber, and [fellow MSR driver] John [Pew] and I have raced against him, so we're all very excited to have him join us for the Miller event as he is a tremendous talent and a fine young man to boot.”
Dalziel made his North American race debut with MSR in the Atlantic Series, making the most of what was outdated equipment to score a runner-up finish in his first race appearance in 2002. The quick-witted Scotsman is also no stranger to the Rolex Sports Car Series, having stormed to a dramatic race victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with the mothballed SAMAX operation, in May.
“This is an awesome opportunity and I'm really excited to be driving for Mike Shank again,” he said, having seen his Champ Car ambitions cut short in 2007, “Mike has always run a top-notch organisation and, like they showed this weekend, they have cars capable of winning week in and week out, so hopefully we can get them back to the top of the podium again at Miller.”
“Mike gave me my first opportunity to come to race in the United States, and we've maintained a great relationship since then. We'd discussed working together again on plenty of occasions, but the timing was never quite right, so I'm pleased we've now been able to change that and go racing again. I'm obviously pretty happy to be heading back to Miller after last year's podium there - it's one of my favourite circuits here in the US, so I'm looking for a strong result in a couple of weeks time.”