Eight months after sustaining significant injuries in a crash at Bathurst, Tim Pappas will make his racing return in November’s Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring International Raceway.
The Black Swan Racing team owner/driver has been confirmed for the Nov. 8-10 event at the wheel of his Porsche 911 GT3 R, to gauge his progress in a bid to return for the 2020 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
“The Encore is the way that I can dip the toe in the water without making a commitment,” Pappas said. “I’ve won at Sebring (in 2011) and I love it there. It’s an opportunity to go to familiar territory and just see how it goes.”
The 46-year-old has been invested in a rigorous seven-month rehabilitation program since undergoing surgical procedures in the week following the crash.
Pappas has undergone surgery to repair an open fracture in the humerus bone in his right arm, which included installation of a titanium rod. The pelvic fractures also needed surgery and the addition of stabilizing metal. He also broke the cuboid bone connecting his left foot and ankle and three metatarsals in the left foot.
“It’s been a long road, a lot of work in the recovery and not something that I’d like to do again,” Pappas said. “But it’s something that happened and it’s been a journey.”
Pappas hasn’t been in a WeatherTech Championship race since this year’s season-opener at Daytona.
He considered returning to GT Daytona class action in this month’s Motul Petit Le Mans but ruled it out so he wouldn’t become a distraction to those competing for championships.
Pappas recently turned laps in a Park Place Motorsports Porsche at Buttonwillow Raceway, leading to the decision to make his return at the Encore.
“Encore presents a really great opportunity for somebody like me where you get to be out at this track with IMSA officials, and everything about the event is like an IMSA event but there’s just not necessarily the stakes on the line.,” Pappas said.
“We as a team get an opportunity to see what this car is like at Sebring. The new 2019 car, we didn’t run this year at Sebring because of my accident, so this is really a little pre-2020 season testing to see where we are and learn a little bit and get myself back out there and see how it feels.
“As bumpy and crazy as Sebring is, if I can go and do a four-hour race there, it will be a very good litmus test for whether I am prepared physically and mentally to go and enter Daytona.”
Pappas also had a message for the multitude of people who have reached out in the months since the crash.
“I just want to say thanks to all of the people in the racing community who have provided me, through their words and calls and texts and so forth, so much support over the past seven months,” he said. “That’s helped me tremendously. It’s really easy to get bogged down and depressed when you’re all smashed up. I spent the better part of three months in a wheelchair and those are dark days.
“Every time my phone buzzed and there was somebody on the other end of the line who was a friend from racing, I knew that they know what I was going through. It just meant a lot.”