Blackdog Speed Shop is “off to a good start” with its new McLaren 570S GT4 cars according to team manager Ray Sorenson, following a productive test ahead of next weekend’s Pirelli GT4 America Sprint season-opener at St. Pete.
The longtime GM operation, which has made the switch to the British manufacturer for 2019, took delivery of the pair of McLaren GT4s less than two weeks ago, which was followed by a two-day test at Circuit of The Americas last week.
Team owner/driver Tony Gaples, as well as Blackdog’s soon-to-be-announced pro driver, were on hand for the team’s first running with the cars.
“Kudos to McLaren for putting the car together well,” Sorenson told Sportscar365. “We had it only [in our shop] for two days, took it [to COTA] and it ran flawlessly.
“Overall the initial experience is very good and it’s just a matter of trying to build on it. We’re off to a good start.”
Gaples, who has driven Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro machinery exclusively in SRO Motorsports America competition since his team’s formation in 2004, admitted the turbocharged McLaren GT4 has been an adjustment, although he sees it as a positive move.
“You’ve got the rear engine, which is different,” he said. “You’ve got the turbo, which is different, and I’m sitting over the front wheels, which is different and the gearing is different. All my shift points I’ve known all my life is gone!
“But it’s fun out there. McLaren has been great to work with.”
Blackdog is understood to be one of the first teams to take delivery of McLaren’s upgraded 2019-spec model, which features a number of mechanical and reliability updates developed by McLaren Automotive.
Sorenson said having the cars in the team’s 60,000 sq. ft. shop in Lincolnshire, Ill., has been a useful exercise in preparing for the season ahead.
“It’s just getting to know the car and what it needs,” he said. “We have a whole new set of spares and packages we need to sort. Doing that via the phone and internet without seeing the car was a really difficult thing.
“McLaren had made some suggestions so we started there. Now that we’ve run the car, we know what [else] we want and what we can do.
“The big thing is making sure we’ve got all the systems in place for the race weekend and the guys just getting to know the car a bit more.”
Confirmation of the team’s second season-long driver, who will compete for overall victories in the Pro class, is expected within the next week.
California 8 Hours Entry Possible
Blackdog could make its endurance racing debut next month, with an entry in the California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca under evaluation.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round, which has been moved to a early spring date for this year, falls two weeks prior to the GT4 Sprint round at Long Beach, which is understood to have generated interest from several GT4 teams.
Gaples indicated it would likely be a single-car, four-driver effort should the program materialize.
“I’ve got some tire-kickers,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s a lot to put together in a short period of time.”
A decision would likely need to be made within the next ten days, according to Sorenson.
“We would need some extra pit equipment to make it happen,” he said. “There would be some things to look at. It would be fun to run the 8 Hour. The guys would love it as it would be something different [for us].”