Michael Shank Racing has signed a pair of South American speedsters to drive his No. 6 Riley Ford in the 2013 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
Colombian Gustavo Yacaman and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia are the latest additions to the MSR team, joining Shank veterans Ozz Negri and John Pew who were already signed to return in the No. 60 MSR car.
Steam owner Michael Shank made the announcement at a press conference streamed live from Bogotá, Colombia Wednesday morning.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here, making this announcement with Gustavo and Antonio,” said Shank. “We’ve been working for a long time to be back to a two-car effort and while there were a lot of good options for us, the biggest thing was to know that we’d be coming to each race with an opportunity to be successful.
“I really believe that with these two drivers, we’ve got the tools we need to be competitive, and hopefully this will be a strong platform for us to build on and prepare for 2014 and beyond.”
Gustavo Yacaman is probably familiar to North American race fans, having finished third in Indy Lights in 2012 with two wins and a pole. The 22-year-old Colombian also drove for MSR in both the 2012 and 2013 Rolex 24s at Daytona.
“This is a very exciting day for me and my career, to be joining Mike Shank and looking forward to a full season in the Rolex Series,” said Yacaman. “I know how good this team is, and the racing with these Daytona Prototypes is very competitive and very close so it is something that all the drivers really enjoy.
“Having a co-driver like Antonio is going to be great--he has a lot of experience and even though he will be new to the Prototypes, I think we will be a strong combination.”
Antonio Pizzonia is possibly less well-known to American race fans, having done his apprenticeship in open-wheel in Europe. The 32-year-old Brazilian did start 21 Formula One races in 2003–2005 driving for Williams and Jaguar; since then he has driven in Superleague, IndyCar, and has one American Le Mans Series start, but much of his racing has been in Brazilian stock car and GT3 series. Pizzonia also had a pair of wins in the 2012 Auto GP series.
“I am very excited to be joining Michael Shank Racing and to have the opportunity to compete in the Rolex Series,” said Pizzonia. “The racing is very close and competitive, and Mike Shank’s team has a lot of experience with the Daytona Prototypes. I am looking forward to racing with Gustavo and quickly learning all the tracks and getting used to racing in America.”
Both drivers come from open-wheel rather than sports car backgrounds but have experience in several types of cars; Michael Shank sees that as a big benefit.
“My whole crew, as well as Ozz [Negri] and John [Pew] all come from that open wheel background and we’ve been through the transition of knowing what it takes to get results in a short sprint to knowing what it takes to earn podiums in Grand Am,” said Shank.
“So the fact that both Antonio and Gustavo have experience not only in single-seaters, but also in a range of other formats is only going to help them make a quick transition to Rolex Series racing. It’s some hard racing!”
Yacaman and Pizzonia will contest the remaining eleven rounds of the Rolex series starting with the Grand-Am of The Americas presented by Gainsco and Total at the Circuit of the Americas on March 2. Tickets are available through the CotA ticket outlet website.
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