Michael Shank Racing has confirmed that it will retain the same four drivers from 2007 for the new Grand Am Rolex Series season.

Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri, who scored eleven top tens and one podium in 2007, will continue to run together in the #60 Riley - now under Ford power - while John Pew and Ian James will continue a relationship that started in May and led to six straight top ten finishes.

"I'm really excited to be able to keep this line-up heading into next year," team boss Michael Shank said. "Obviously we've shown a lot of consistency and speed with these guys, and being able to continue our relationships with them is going to pay dividends for us moving forward.

"We're lucky to be a two-car team that really operates like one big team, with great communication and teamwork between the two cars-from the drivers to the engineers to the guys setting up the pits."

The team already has a firm foot forward on the new campaign, coming off a highly successful Pirelli tyre test earlier this month which saw the team set some impressive times in their first exposure to the new rubber that it will run on during 2008.

"This new tyre is great, and we're confident that we'll be more competitive this season," Shank continued. "We are working flat out with the new cars and the new tyres, but we are really excited about next year. We have also put a great line-up together for the 24 and are looking forward to making some announcements soon."

Patterson and Negri as expected to be amongst the front-runners with the new MSR package in 2008 on the back of the successful testing completed to date, and Patterson admitted that regular podium finishes were the aim for the season ahead.

"This team is really strong and this Pirelli test was further evidence of that," he said. "We were quick right off the truck and we will look to carry that pace all the way to the last lap of the 24 this year. We know this team is tremendously capable, and we are hungry to get back on the podium as often as possible this year and with our new Ford power and a tire that is going to make everyone a lot faster, we think we have what we need to do that."

Negri, who backed up his record setting run to pole at Laguna in '05 with a podium performance there two years later, is anxious to get the season going after a taste of the Pirelli performance.

"This new tyre is great and I know we're going to be much stronger with it," he said. "Mark gets faster every year-he really works hard at it and shows up at every track with great focus and it pays off with his times lap after lap. I think he's going to be even stronger this season and we're really looking forward to the potential we have with our drivers, the Ford power, and this new tyre."

Pew meanwhile in the sister car will be going head-to-head with team-mate Patterson in the battle for the Jim Trueman award and he said he was looking forward to battling his partner for the prestigious title.

"Mark set a great benchmark for me to follow in my rookie season last year and I'm looking forward to competing with him for that Trueman trophy," he said. "He still has a lot more experience than I do in these cars, but we were nipping at his heels a couple times last year, so hopefully we can keep improving and being competitive.

"I'm happy that Ian will be with us again this year to help make that happen because he's a tremendous asset to this team both in and out of the car."

 

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