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.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.