BATHURST, Australia (February 5, 2018) – Participating in their first-ever 12 Hours of Bathurst, the first round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, Black Swan Racing would make a historic debut by winning the Pro-Am class, taking third overall and within sight of the win, and the highest ranking of any Porsche during the event. Noted as one of the toughest endurance races in one of the world’s most prolific tracks, the No. 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz and Marc Lieb would enjoy a faultless run to take top honors.
“This was an amazing weekend,” stated Black Swan team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas. “Bathurst is a circuit unlike any other, I like to call it the ‘Monaco of the Outback,’ and something as a collective team we were really looking forward to. To walk away with a victory like this is more than we ever could have asked for. The team arrived well prepared, the guys made great decisions on pit strategy, and of course our drivers were absolutely flawless. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the effort from everyone, and of course the support from Porsche, to make this a reality. To not only win our class, but also stand on the overall podium and as the top Porsche, it’s unreal, and something we won’t forget.”
As one of the most notorious circuits in the world, Bathurst’s Mount Panorama is a venue known for high speeds and little room for error, often creating a slew of incidents and contact.
With attrition at the forefront of the team strategy, the entire weekend was dictated by a measured approach, slowly getting up to speed during each session, being careful not to make costly mistakes that could ruin the team’s weekend.
By time the green flag fell, the high attrition rate would prove true, with a number of incidents and caution periods curtailing the event, including a near miss for Tim Pappas as he barely managed to avoid a loose wheel from a crashing competitor.
By time the halfway point was reached, it was clear the team was in a prime position to contend. With minimum drive-times all fulfilled, the team’s strategic decision to hold its most experienced drivers for the end would prove the right call, primed to fight for a podium position in class as the final hours closed in.
It was with just over one hour remaining, however, that the key strategic decision was made. When a timely yellow would fall, bunching the field up, the team elected to pit for the final time for tires and fuel, as well as putting the experienced Marc Lieb in for the end. While the timing would mean the team would be very close on fuel to the end, it would also mean that the competitors ahead, who had not stopped yet, would likely fall behind the No. 540 by time their final stops cycled through.
Maintaining pace and saving fuel at the same time, the strategy proved correct, as the team would advance to first by time everything cycled, with Lieb holding the lead and doing his best to manage his fuel to the end.
In the final minutes, and knowing they may be able to make it to the end while the overall race leaders in front may not, a red flag would ensure the victory, with the race stopped due to a heavy incident and everyone locked in their positions as the final result.
Not only would it serve as the team’s first victory in their first attempt, but it would also mean they’re two-for-two in Intercontinental GT Challenge competition, as well as adding Bathurst to their win tally that includes: Sebring, Petit Le Mans, and Long Beach.
For Jeroen Bleekemolen, a similar feeling is shared.
“This was a fantastic result for everyone involved,” stated Bleekemolen. “It’s such a tricky circuit, and so easy to make a critical mistake, that aiming for a clean finish would have been reasonable. To end up taking the class win, third overall among some all-pro lineups, and the top Porsche finisher, is pretty unbelievable. It’s a great testament to the team and the crew, who did a great job preparing for this.”
The next round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge will move to the lone European round, the famed 24 Hours of Spa on July 26-29. With over five months until the next round of competition, the team has additional plans to race in other events, with more plans to be announced.