Pushed out of the SunTrust Racing line-up by the arrival of Brian Frisselle, Michael Valiante has signed to partner John Pew at Michael Shank Racing in next season's Rolex Sports Car Series
The Canadian will co-drive the #6 entry alongside Grand-Am's newest race winner, and brings an impressive racing resume to the MSR operation, having won titles from the very start of his career. Valiante made his first Daytona Prototype start in 2005, and competed full-time in the Rolex series from 2006, getting his biggest break alongside Max Angelelli at SunTrust last season.
“As a driver, you want to be involved with a team that is willing to put in the effort that it takes to win, and that is definitely the case with Michael Shank Racing,” he said, “Their shop is incredible, and their on-track record speaks for itself.
"I've known Mike [Shank] since the Atlantic days, and I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'm looking forward to working with John and the Riley-Ford is a proven package. The team has shown for several years that it is a winning organisation, and I'm hoping to be a part of even more success for this team [next] season.”
Valiante joins MSR at the end of a break-out season for the team, which saw it take a record-setting pole for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and close out the year with two consecutive race wins. After a partial campaign in 2007, Pew also enjoyed an impressive '08 campaign as the #6 team finished the year ninth in the championship.
“We closed the year out on such a high with our victory at Miller, but now we are focused on 2009 and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to work with Michael [Valiante] this year,” said Pew, who scored two podiums in his first full season of Rolex competition, “Getting back on the podium again is a high priority, starting with the Daytona 24 Hours in January.”
Valiante enjoyed mixed fortunes with the SunTrust team, always appearing to be a frontrunner with Angelelli, but suffering poor fortune until late in the year, eventually finishing eleventh in the individual standings. That fact wasn't lost on Shank, however, who relishes the chance to bring an old Atlantics adversary on board.
“We've known Michael for years and he brings a lot of speed, intelligence, and racecraft with him,” the team owner said, “We know he's going to be a great fit with this team. We've seen what he can do in the car, so we're really pleased to have him on our side and not have to race against him.”
Valiante will get his first chance to work with the MSR team at this month's November Test Days.