ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 14, 2017)- Returning to a full season of Pirelli World Challenge competition in 2017, Black Swan Racing’s debut with the venerable Mercedes-AMG GT3 would show a lot of promise during this past weekend’s season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Taking to their first race in the new machine, the team would manage an incident-free weekend, taking class finishes of fifth and seventh respectively.
“Overall we made a lot of progress with the Mercedes-AMG GT3,” stated team owner and driver Tim Pappas. “This car is a lot of fun to drive. It has tremendous grip, great balance, a lot of torque, and generally should be a good all-around car for the full season. So far in testing, and now the race, we’ve learned a lot, and as we continue in to 2017 I’m sure we’ll only get stronger. There were definitely a lot of positives on the weekend, not least of which was the quality of competition that the Pirelli World Challenge has on offer. Both the GT and GTA categories have some really strong lineups, and it makes these events very enjoyable to be a part of. We definitely had a few setbacks in understanding the setup and changing track conditions, but this is all part of the learning curve and we’ll head to Long Beach even stronger.”
After a strong series of practice sessions, a setback in qualifying would place the Boston native seventh in class for Saturday’s Race One. Understanding a patient drive in the No. 54 Mercedes-AMG GT3 would be crucial to set the stage for a strong Race Two, Tim would run a cautious but strong first race. Overtaking multiple cars throughout his debut run, Pappas would enjoy a mistake-free event, taking fifth in class.
With his Saturday pace placing him on the grid in fifth Sunday’s Race Two, an impressive start would earn the ‘best start’ award for the race, however the challenges of changing track conditions would unfortunately set the No. 54 back in the opening laps, with Tim doing his best to get a handle on what he needed to adjust as the race went on. Luckily, the experience of the former ALMS-series champion would shine as the race entered its second half, with Pappas getting a handle on his machine to set his fastest lap of the weekend en route to seventh in class.
Looking to return to their podium ways, all focus will now set on to the Grand Prix of Long Beach, serving as not only the hallmark event of the series, but a site where the team has earned victory in the former American Le Mans Series. Practice begins on Friday, April 7, with the series’ single-race taking place on the morning of Sunday, April 9.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 5, 2017)- Following a promising opening weekend to their 2017 Pirelli World Challenge campaign at St. Petersburg, Black Swan Racing will return to action during this weekend’s Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the most iconic venues of the year.
“Returning to Long Beach is something we look forward to every year,” stated Black Swan Racing team owner and driver Tim Pappas. “It’s a venue unlike any other, and with a history and iconic status that you can’t help but get excited about. The circuit itself always provides an interesting blend of technical and challenging corners, and with our new car it will be interesting to see how we fair. Our race at St. Petersburg was a really good learning experience for all of us, as there’s so many elements to consider with track conditions, tire management, and beyond. This serves in many ways as a home race for us, and we really want to do well in front of our home crowd.”
While a native of Boston, the Grand Prix of Long Beach serves as a semi “home race” for Pappas, who resides part-time in nearby Los Angeles. A veteran of the event, Tim has competed in numerous cars and categories at Long Beach over the decades, including victory in 2010 with the former American Le Mans Series.
Driving the No. 54 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the fist time on the 1.9-mile, 11-turn city street course, the long straights combined with tight, bumpy corners should provide an interesting challenge among both the team and competitors. While it remains to be seen which cars the configuration will favor, confidence is high that gains made at St. Petersburg and in private testing should suit the marque well, as Pappas continues to search for podium results.
Competing in the Pirelli World Challenge GTA category, the experience gained from previous years should suit the team well, with all eyes on maximizing practice and qualifying given the short nature of the race, as well as the high likelihood of caution periods eating up valuable track time.
Practice for the Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin this Friday, April 7, with the race taking place on Sunday, April 9. Same-day television coverage will be available on CBS Sports Network at 2:30 PM ET, with continuous updates via the team’s Instagram (@blackswanperformance) Twitter (@BlkSwnRcng) and Facebook accounts (Black Swan Racing).
BOSTON (July 20, 2016)- Considered a home race for the Boston-based team, Black Swan Racing will return to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition during this weekend’s Northeast Grand Prix, the seventh round of the GT Daytona (GTD) category. Additionally, Andy Pilgrim will step in for this Saturday’s race as an extension of his efforts in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Championship.
“Having Andy with us at Lime Rock will be a great addition,” stated Black Swan Racing team principal and co-driver Tim Pappas. “Considering how notorious this track is, having someone with his experience and patience will be an invaluable addition, and with a little bit of perseverance I think we can perform well. This is one of those races where you never really know what can happen, and if we can manage the attrition we can be there at the end.”
Located in scenic Lakeville, Connecticut the 1.5-mile circuit is most known for its close racing which often lead to frequent incidents. The smallest length of the entire IMSA circuit, pit strategy is often more critical than at other venues, something which should play in to the hands of the experienced crew of the No. 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
For Andy Pilgrim, returning to the team for his first sprint race of 2016, the opportunity to race at such a storied site is a welcome one.
“Lime Rock is always one of those races that you really have to be aware of your surroundings,” stated Pilgrim. “Things happen so quickly there that you can never really relax, but I think that should play well for everyone at Black Swan. There’s a lot of experience within the team, and at a track like this it’s something that is a major advantage so we’re all hoping for a good result. It’s great to be back with the team for another race, and while it’s all come together pretty quickly I’m hopeful I can pay them back with a strong run.”
The Northeast Grand Prix will take place this Saturday, July 23, with coverage on FOX at 3PM ET.
WATKINS GLEN, NY (July 5, 2016)- Looking for a strong result after a difficult series of races, Black Swan Racing drivers Tim Pappas, Nicky Catsburg and Andy Pilgrim enjoyed a quiet run to seventh during Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. Running a solid six hours with minimal mistakes and setting several quick laps, the team took the checkered flag without a scratch on the car, and currently sit seventh in the standings for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
“Overall we’re satisfied with the day, even if we have some objections to our penalty,” stated Black Swan Racing team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas. “At the very least we showed great progress in our learning curve. The GTD field is incredibly close, and with virtually every team and driver line-up being capable of winning, the gap between everyone is extremely tight so it’s always a moving target. We were one of the fastest Porsches out there so we know what we’re capable of, and I think headed to the rest of the season we’ll be in great shape. Big credit to Nicky and Andy who did a stellar job as always, and to everyone on the crew who worked really hard over the last few weeks to get us here.”
Opting to change tires before the race, the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R was actually forced to start from the back of the field by series’ rule as a result, with starting-driver Tim Pappas in the mindset that there was only one direction to move during the course of his stint.
Making a strong start, Pappas did his usual job of keeping his pace within sight of the lead pack, yet avoiding any unnecessary risk on the car, and as the laps continued it was clear he had found a strong rhythm to settle in to. Per series rule, Pappas was required to fulfill a minimum drive-time of one-hour, forty-five minutes, which the team elected to do in an opening double stint. Making a clean first pit-stop after an opportune caution, Tim would continue the same pace throughout his second stint, running error free and of most importance, not losing a lap in the process.
After a fairly quiet run, the team owner would hand the reigns over to full-time teammate Nicky Catsburg, who was instantly on pace as expected. Managing his car and trying to gauge the overall pace for the end of the race, Nicky would run two stints, setting some of the quickest laps in the field in the process. Slowly moving his way up the field, Catsburg would take the team past the halfway point, demonstrating the clear potential of the team’s chances.
After a faultless second stint, the team would elect to pit Nicky in favor of sportscar veteran Andy Pilgrim, who was instantly on point as he made his way on to the circuit. Having been in the sport for several decades, Andy did his usual job of running excellent times without putting the car at any risk, handling his series of stints without any error. While the team had initially looked to possibly double-stint Pilgrim, the elapsed time of the race provided a clear opportunity to put Catsburg in for the final 90 minutes of the race, which the team optioned to do when Andy would come in for the team’s penultimate pit stop.
By this point, the No. 540 Porsche was within the top-five, and with a very serious shot at the podium.
With 90 minutes to go, it was now time for Nicky Catsburg to run full pace, firmly focused on getting their second podium of the season. As a variety of strategies unfolded for the final pit stop, it was clear that Catsburg had his work cut out for him, with the team optimistic on cracking the top-three. Unfortunately, after a caution period with just under 30 minutes remaining, IMSA officials declared that Catsburg had made an illegal pass during the resulting restart. The team strongly voiced their disagreement with the call, fighting it for as long as they could until it was clear that Nicky would have to serve the penalty or face being disqualified. Due to the long drive at pit-road speed, the penalty effectively ended any contention for a podium, forcing Nicky to simply settle in to his rhythm and bring his Porsche home safely in seventh.
For Catsburg, a fairly difficult ending muted the strength shown in the weekend.
“We’re upset with the penalty, but I think behind the scenes there were a lot of things that demonstrated our potential,” stated Catsburg. “We were not only one of the quickest Porsches out there, but we were able to manage the pace for a long time which put us in a really good position for the end of the race. There are so many things that can happen that it only takes a small penalty to completely challenge your results, but as always we’ll take what we learned and move forward. I really appreciate the efforts from everyone at Black Swan and look forward to our next race.”
Moving on from Watkins Glen, the team remains committed to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and will return to action in just three weeks’ time at the Northeast Grand Prix , with practice beginning on July 22 and live coverage on FOX at 3PM ET on Saturday, July 23.
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 2, 2016)- After running some of their strongest lap times of the weekend, and looking to be a threat for Sunday’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Black Swan Racing drivers Tim Pappas and Nicky Catsburg endured a challenging race following a brake failure near the event’s halfway point. Despite missing a large portion of the two-hour race for repairs, the team would still manage to achieve minimum race distance in order to be classified in 17th, currently holding eighth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTD standings.
“It’s definitely a disappointing day,” stated team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas. “As the race went on we were starting to look very competitive, and I think once we gave the car over to Nicky we would have had a really good shot at things, but unfortunately a braking issue bit us. As I went in to Turn Five, the pedal just went to the floor and the car was barely slowing. Luckily it’s a longer turn that runs up hill, so I did my best to try and flick it around to scrub speed, but the car just slid a little too far and beached us in the gravel. It was incredibly frustrating, but at the same time I’m fortunate that it happened there and not at a few other points where we could have incurred some serious damage. Once we got the car back to the pits, the guys did a great job getting everything back in order to get us on track, and that will pay off as we get to the end of the championship.”
Starting the race in eighth, Pappas would take on opening duties in the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. After a disappointing race in Sebring, the Massachusetts native knew that the key to Sunday’s first “sprint race” would be maintaining contact with the lead pack before handing off to co-driver Nicky Catsburg for the final hour of the race. Doing just that, Tim would show a remarkable pace as the race wore on, clicking off some of his best laps of the weekend and engaged in a great battle with long-time friend Bret Curtis in the No. 96 BMW.
Unfortunately, as the race continued toward the 45-minute mark, a failure of the front brake line would keep Tim’s Porsche from decelerating heading in to the uphill-bound Turn Five, causing Pappas to induce a spin to slow his car and sliding in to the outside gravel trap. With the deep gravel of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca doing its job, Pappas found himself stopped and stranded in the spot, with the depth of the gravel preventing his car from being able to resume racing. Race officials would eventually throw a yellow flag, allowing course workers to help remove the car from the turn and tow the stricken vehicle back to the pits for repairs.
For a frantic next 30 minutes, the entire crew at Black Swan would do everything they could to repair the brakes, remove the gravel, and repair any damages in order to get the car back on track to drive a minimum 70% distance to score points. Doing just that, the team was masterful in getting the car back to form, with Nicky Catsburg now behind the wheel to see the finish.
With the team out of contention and simply managing the car to the end, the Dutchman simply ran his laps, completing the minimum distance in order to score 15 points on the day.
“It’s always difficult to get in a car when you know you know there’s no real positions to gain and the car is wounded, but these things happen,” stated Catsburg. “It’s too bad we had the brake issue, but the team was very fast to get the car repaired. Racing wouldn’t be exciting if we could predict the outcome, and this was just one of those events.”
With five weeks until the next event, the team will have some reprieve before heading to the final street circuit of the season in Detroit’s scenic Belle Isle Park. Practice will begin on Friday, June 4, with the race taking place one day later at 12:40PM ET.