The two Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS cars at St. Petersburg. Photo: Magnus Racing

PWC affords chance for Magnus, Black Swan to return to Long Beach

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What do Magnus Racing and Black Swan Racing have in common at Long Beach?

Both teams have an element of fun interspersed into their media releases thanks to the creative team at The Media Barons. Both once ran Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles signage here. And both are back full-time in the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season, and Long Beach serves as a key event for both of their programs.

They’ll be part of the 23-car GT and GTA field for the series’ lone 50-minute race, which comes up on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. PT and local time. The race airs on a same-day delay at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

The Roscoe’s Porsche in 2011. Photo: Magnus Racing

Magnus hasn’t been to Long Beach in six years. In the American Le Mans Series race in 2011, Magnus ran in the all-Porsche GT3 Cup GTC class, and promptly scored a podium with team owner John Potter co-driving with California veteran driver Craig Stanton. The team also pioneered the Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles livery to great fan acclaim.

After a tough opening weekend at St. Petersburg when Pierre Kaffer saw a would-be podium go away after a rare bit of contact with Patrick Long, he and Potter in the Nos. 4 and 44 Audi Tire Center Audi R8 LMS cars are keen to recapture past podium glory at America’s most iconic street race.

“It’s great to be back at Long Beach,” Potter said. “The last time we visited in 2011 we had a really fun weekend, capped off with a podium, and it’s something we hope to repeat heading in to this year’s race. Between the scenery, the crowd, the whole atmosphere, it’s one of the best events of the year for our series, and we’re excited to be back.”

Kaffer added, “Long Beach is a fantastic event, and one I’m excited to be a part of again. The whole Magnus Racing team demonstrated a lot of potential during St. Petersburg, we just had some bad luck. I’m confident we will be strong again, but it should be a very close race. The configuration of Long Beach is unlike any other, so it’s tough to say who will be strong, but we know we have a great team behind us to maximize every opportunity.”

The No. 54 Mercedes-AMG GT3 at St. Petersburg. Photo: Black Swan Racing

Pappas, meanwhile, has been a mainstay at the event for the last decade but gone through a variety of different cars since.

After running a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in 2007 under the Team Trans Sport Racing banner and missing out on the 2008 race as the team readied a Falken Tire-shod privateer Ford GT, he and longtime co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen made Black Swan Racing’s GTC class debut in 2010 with a brand new Porsche GT3 Cup car. Although they only finished eighth then, the groundwork laid set the tone for Bleekemolen scoring five straight poles and he and Pappas winning four of the next five races.

Pappas and Bleekemolen promptly won the Long Beach race in 2011 in GTC. In both 2010 and 2011, this entry won that class championship.

The Black Swan Racing Lola HPD LMP2 coupe at Sebring. Photo: Tony DiZinno

A step up to prototypes followed in 2012 but a nightmarish run occurred in the team’s second – and ultimately last – race with a Lola B11/80 HPD LMP2 car that got wrecked early in the race, thus sticking a fork in the Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles-adorned entry.

Pappas switched to Pirelli World Challenge for the first time in 2013 and finished sixth with the first generation Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. With the same car in 2014, Pappas finished fourth in the new GTA subcategory (13th overall).

He debuted a new Dodge Viper GT3-R at Long Beach in 2015 and was 11th in GTA, 19th overall of 32 GT cars (and 40 cars overall with 8 PWC GT Cup cars) in the wreck-infested race.

Last year provided Pappas, who’d switched back to IMSA full-time and then with a Porsche 911 GT3 R, a chance to run the Viper one more time in PWC and finish second in GTA, 11th among the GT cars last year.

This year, Pappas and Black Swan Racing are back in PWC, now with the second generation Mercedes-AMG GT3 and in Pappas’ second home race. The Boston native resides part-time in Los Angeles with his family.

“Returning to Long Beach is something we look forward to every year,” Pappas said. “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.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.