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

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

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III