SEBRING, Florida (March 22, 2016)- Despite running strong times, making no mistakes on track, as well as having zero mechanical issues, Black Swan Racing endured a difficult day during Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring to finish 13th in the GTD category. After receiving two separate penalties for a total of eight minutes, the team retains fourth place in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well as fifth in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Championship. â€¨
â€¨“It’s frustrating to run as well as we did and still finish 13th,” stated team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas. “Sebring is a unique track, but hopefully the challenges we had there will accelerate our learning curve. There’s no beating around it, we made mistakes and they cost us, but we’ll grow from it and move on to the next event. The good thing is on-track we were once again very strong, our pit stops were flawless, and the car was mechanically sound. That plays a strong omen for us as we head in to the remaining nine rounds of the season, and there’s no doubt we’ll be in great shape for the season.”â€¨ â€¨
With Pappas electing to take starting duties, the team made an early decision to run the Massachusetts native through all three hours of his required drive-time, clearing the way for co-drivers Andy Pilgrim, Patrick Long and Nicky Catsburg to drive the remainder of the race. Running error-free, Pappas kept a clean and consistent pace throughout his opening two stints, never putting a foot wrong and quietly managing the car for his co-drivers.â€¨ â€¨
Unfortunately, a caution period late in to his second stint would cause confusion within the team, ultimately leading to the first of their two penalties. Under series rule when under caution, any car in front of the first class-leading car after pit stops can proceed with what’s known as a wave-by, once allowed, where all cars may pass the pace car and re-catch the back of the field, effectively gaining a lap in the process. Under the confusion of multiple cars in different classes making pit stops, the team mistakenly informed Pappas he was cleared to begin a wave-by, which later proved to be incorrect.â€¨ â€¨
The team was eventually called in for a “stop-and-hold” penalty of four minutes.â€¨ â€¨
With Pappas now two laps down as a result, the team would endure the first of two major setbacks in their “12 Hour.”
As his stint came to a close, the race would actually be stopped for two-hours and 15 minutes due to lightning in the area, forfeiting a major opportunity for the team to make up lost ground.
Once the race resumed, it was now up to Andy Pilgrim to carry out his part of the race, doing a masterful job in wet conditions to climb through the field, once again driving without any mistakes and handing the car over to Patrick Long as they passed the halfway point in the race.
With Long now in the car, the team knew that they had strong opportunity to make up time and hopefully find themselves back on the lead lap. However, as Long’s stint progressed, confusion within the team would lead to yet another mistaken call, again on an improper wave-by.
The result was Long would suffer his own stop-and-hold, once again for four minutes, ending all hope of contention for the team.
By this point, the team simply turned to managing their time to the end, putting in Catsburg in for the final two hours, where he would drive a patient session en route to their 13th place finish.
For Catsburg, a challenging event was underscored by the quality of the team.
“An unfortunate day for sure, but there are many great moments from the weekend,” stated Catsburg. “The team did a great job preparing for the event, the car was good, and I think you can see how strong we were between our quality lap times and running without any technical issues. Unfortunately we made two critical mistakes and that cost us, but we will learn and get better as a group.”
For Long, a similar sentiment is shared.
“No one wants to see a race go this way, but it’s the first time the team has been here in several years so it’s understandable,” stated Long. “It’s a very complex system, and combined with the red flag I think a lot of teams were knocked off their normal rhythm. The quality of the team is definitely there. We had a well prepared car, excellent pit stops, and everything was present to have done well. Mistakes happen, and I have no doubt that the team will only get stronger. I’m very proud of what a strong and reliable car we ran.”
For Pilgrim, a chance to return to Sebring was a welcome one.
“We did not get the finishing result we wanted, but we can take so many positives away from the weekend,” stated Pilgrim. “Sebring is massive undertaking and we can take away many more positives than negatives. The car ran flawlessly again, the crew were textbook with every pit stop, the drivers did their part, and the car coming home with barely a scratch on it meant we at least walked away with decent points. This race is one of the toughest in the world and I think we can be proud of the week as a whole. It's a very long season and the team will be better for this experience moving forward. Onward and upward from here.
With the second of four endurance races now behind, the team will turn their attention to the first “sprint” race of the year, the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda, taking place at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Practice begins on Friday, April 29, with the race occurring on Sunday, May 1.