Nancy Knapp Schilke, ALMS Correspondent
Pappas and Bleekemolen recently tested an LM P1 at Sebring
Tim Pappas has twice won the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT Challenge (GTC) driver championship and his Black Swan Racing (BSR) team took the title in 2010 and '11. Their first title was easier and they clearly ended up in the championship fight with four wins and six poles. This year they had a tighter battle in the all Porsche class; yet they took five victories. Two of those wins came at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans event.
It's still just unbelievable.
Pappas commented to the ALMS staff recently about this past season: “In 2011, BSR fought hard with Alex Job and TRG, trading the lead in the team championship with TRG during the season. Though we maintained the lead in the GTC drivers’ championship all season, it was nonetheless a season of hard, close racing. NGT and Magnus provided some additional gravity to the series, but succeeded in hurting the other teams more than BSR. All in all, Black Swan's participation raised the bar and the competition stood up to the challenge.”
It now appears that Pappas will take his team to a new challenge. The owner/driver and Jeroen Bleekemolen took one of the Oak Racing Pescarolo LMP1s testing at the Sebring International Raceway. "This is the first time I've driven anything out of a GT car, showroom stock or similar production-based car," Pappas said.
The team owner is definitely eying the move to the LMP2 and will look into what his options are for the chassis and the powerplant. "It was incredible. I've never had anything that had that level of downforce and technical aspects. It's still just unbelievable,” said Pappas after his first test of a sportcar prototype.
Oak Racing showcased their LMP2 this year but Pappas also will look at the Lola chassis. "The Oak Racing P2 car is still under development," Pappas said. "We drove the P1 car, but I'd imagine there are a lot of similarities in the chassis construction and other elements. There is a lot of technology in those cars for the price."
Pappas is the CEO of his own corporation and he does not make decisions before thinking them through. He admitted that while he enjoyed racing the GTC, he undertook it with the idea of moving up a class. There was speculation that he would move to the LM Prototype Challenge (LMPC) but now it seems he is looking toward the cutting-edge technology of the top prototypes.
Per the ALMS press release, Pappas said: "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 said. "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 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, but that's not what this class is about."
For now, Pappas is aiming to start the New Year with a new goal.