DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 2, 2016) - Following a hard-fought 24 hours during this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, Black Swan Racing narrowly missed victory by three seconds during the twice-around-the-clock event. Serving as the team’s return to IMSA competition, it would mark an impressive debut for the team who used a combination of faultless driving and clever strategy to take the podium.
“It’s always bittersweet to finish second at Daytona,” stated team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas. “It’s disappointing to come that close to victory, but at the same time I think we showed just how strong we are and this bodes incredibly well for the season.”
Opting to run a different strategy than most of their competitors, the team would actually start the race in 20th opting to cycle their silver-rated drivers first.
With the team setting a strong focus on drivers Patrick Long and Nicky Catsburg running finishing duties, the first half of the twice-around-the-clock-classic would focus on setting the No. 540 Porsche GT3 R up for the finish.
Having not competed with Porsche machinery since 2012, the team was seamless in their transition, a clear showcase of off-season preparation headed in to the event.
With some of the most experienced drivers in the field, it was up to Tim Pappas and Andy Pilgrim to drive a good portion of the first half, with Long and Catsburg sporadically jumping in to gauge the team’s pace.
As the day fell into night, the team’s faultless run was evident as the hours clicked off with the team very quietly positioning as a contender.
When the sun rose and the team remained faultless, the opportunity for success became evident. With attention shifting to the end, the team would run Patrick Long through his maximum driver time setting the stage for full-season driver Nicky Catsburg to take the car to the finish.
Unfortunately, with two hours to go and Catsburg in, all focus turned to fuel strategy. Should there be no yellows, the remaining time was just outside the window for one more pit stop, meaning the No. 540 would need to consider a “splash and go” during the final hour if there were no yellows.
As the race unfolded, that very scenario presented itself with the Black Swan crew opting to bring their machine in for a splash of fuel, meanwhile the race leading No. 44 Audi went the opposite direction, staying out and driving super conservative to the end.
With Catsburg able to drive flat out, all focus turned to chasing down the conservative No. 44 Audi R8 LMS, trimming the gap down from 45 seconds to three by the end, however, Nicky would simply run out of time as he would cross the line in second.
“While there is some disappointment, ultimately I’m happy with the result,” stated Catsburg. “This team has worked very hard to learn the new Porsche, and they performed flawlessly. This was very much a team effort, and looking forward to the rest of the year I feel we will be very strong.”
For Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, a similar sentiment is shared.
“The whole team at Black Swan Racing was very impressive given limited time with the car,” stated Long. “I have no doubt this team will be a championship contender, they proved it throughout the whole 24 hours.”
For Andy Pilgrim, his return to Daytona was a memorable one.
“Overall I think I can be happy with the result,” stated Pilgrim. “Finishing second, that close to first, is always going to sting a little bit, but I think everyone on this team should be satisfied. This entire Black Swan team acted like they’ve known the car for years, which is a great sign for their championship goals.”
While the next race is not for another seven weeks at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, there is little down time for both Black Swan and the entire series as there is an upcoming Sebring test in just a couple weeks, as well as several other prep items for the team.