Black Swan Racing has committed to the entire Intercontinental GT Challenge season, with Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen confirmed in the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R for the four-round championship.
It is the first American team to take part in the entire SRO-run series, which kicks off with this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and includes rounds at Spa, Suzuka and Laguna Seca.
Pappas and the team made their IGTC debuts in October’s California 8 Hours, claiming Pro-Am class honors with a fifth place overall finish for the team owner/driver, Bleekemolen and David Calvert-Jones.
This weekend, Pappas and Bleekemolen are joined by Luca Stolz and former LMP1 world champion Marc Lieb in the team’s Porsche.
“This event and all the others are really popular, and there’s a lot of good cars,” Pappas told Sportscar365. “I’m excited about it but it’s not going to be an easy championship by any stretch.
“Last year, no one really did all the rounds. This year there’s a bunch of cars doing it.”
While having been a mainstay of the North American sports car racing scene, both in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge, Pappas felt it was the right time to expand its horizons.
Pappas said the team plans to also remain in PWC but is still working out its exact schedule and program.
“I really love racing in the U.S.; I like the people, the tracks and what we’re doing,” he said.
“I felt that keeping it interesting for the crew, and then obviously these are all awesome places to come and run. We deiced to try something different for this season.
“What really put it over the top for me was when they added Suzuka.
“Last year in September when we were running in PWC, Jeroen said he was in, and we just made the decision to do it.”
Pappas has purchased a second Porsche, previously owned by Preston Calvert, for the season-long effort, which will see one chassis sent to Belgium for the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July, and the other sea-freighted to Japan for the Suzuka 10 Hours the following month.
The team has also built a custom shipping container and cabinets for its IGTC program.
“Logistically it’s complicated to do,” Pappas said. “It’s been a challenge to figure out how to do that. We came up with the only solution to buy a car, so that’s what we’ve done.”
Pappas said the remainder of the team’s lineup for the races at Spa, Suzuka and Laguna Seca hasn’t yet been determined but reaffirmed they will remain in the Pro-Am class at all rounds.
Additionally, Pappas will run for the SRO’s new Bronze Drivers’ Championship, which is one of several changes made to the IGTC Sporting Regulations for 2018.
Realistic Expectations for Bathurst
Pappas, meanwhile, has set realistic expectations for he and his teams’ Bathurst debut this weekend.
“Bathurst is a pretty intimidating place,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the sim and just walked it. I’m really excited to do it but I’m also realistic.
“Being a rookie, I’ve just got to go out there and work up to a pace and let these guys get after it.
“You can see how easy it is to have a little mistake and screw it all up. Just minor contact, you’re going to do all kinds of damage and not recover from it.
“Even if I’m out there and can only do 2:11s or whatever, you just have to go as fast as you can within the margin that’a going to keep you from making a big mistake.”