Black Swan Racing in action at Road Atlanta - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
After winning the past two GT Challenge (GTC) championships with their Porsche in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron (ALMS), Black Swan Racing's owner Tim Pappas is eyeing the LM P2 category for the 2012 season. Pappas and teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen recently tested an Oak-Pescarolo from Oak Racing on the Sebring International Raceway road/airport circuit as they begin the process of selecting a chassis and engine combination.
"This is the first time I've driven anything outside of a GT car, showroom stock or similar production-based [race] car," Pappas remarked following the test. "It was incredible. I've never had anything that had that level of downforce. It's just unbelievable. I think most people, who would look at a prototype car from a fan's perspective, would be surprised at how easy these cars are to drive."
Pappas is looking at the Oak-Pescarolo or a Lola, aiming to make a choice before the end of the calendar year. Pappas and Bleekemolen tested Oak Racing's LM P1-class Oak-Pescarolo with a Judd engine, riding on Dunlop tires during the Sebring test because the LM P2 car is still under development.
"We drove the LM P1 car, but I'd imagine there are a lot of similarities in the chassis construction and other elements," Pappas noted. "There is a lot of technology in those cars for the price."
Those two items - technology and price - are paramount motivators in Pappas' move to the LM P2 category. Although he has enjoyed the level of competition in GTC over the past two seasons, Pappas always viewed Black Swan Racing's GTC effort as a stepping stone to a bigger program. The successful real estate and property development CEO recognized LM P2 as a better fit for his team.
"The backbone of sports car racing has been the enthusiast like myself who has a career outside motorsports, but has a passion and desire to pursue their racing goals, contending for race wins and championships," he noted. "The level of competition in GT right now is unbelievable and probably the best in the world, but it's not the place for a guy like me.
"We want to go head-to-head with other top independent teams with perhaps a manufacturer relationship and technical support. These cars," Pappas said, "have a cost structure that is fixed, thanks to the rules. You don't have to take them and spend thousands of dollars to develop them and become competitive. You could," he mused, "but that's not what this class is about."
Pappas believes the LM P2 class is on a path for growth and that's why Black Swan Racing has chosen to follow this course upon reaching their critical crossroads after two very successful seasons.
I firmly believe that things happen for a reason. LM P2 in the ALMS was an unbelievable class only a few years ago and hopefully, a stable platform and a Pro-Am combination can help guys like me - who don't race full-time but have a passion for racing - contend for championships."
Black Swan Racing has retained the core of its team, while some members have elected to leave for more opportunities in GTC. "We're excited to get a look at prototype cars and ready for something outside our comfort zone."
The annual Sebring Winter Test for the ALMS takes place February 8-9 at Sebring.
© 2011 Anne Proffit