By Bea Elle
Mercedes AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams Black Swan Racing and Champ1 each scored a GTA-class podium finish in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio doubleheader this past weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Tim Pappas drove the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a third-place GTA finish in Saturday’s first 50-minute race, and Pablo Perez Companc raced to his own third-place GTA showing in Sunday’s final race of the weekend in the No. 69 Champ1 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Saturday’s podium finish was the third-straight third-place result for Pappas and Black Swan Racing in Pirelli World Challenge GTA sprint series competition this season. Pappas raced the No. 54 to a pair of third-place finishes one race prior at Road America.
The recent success has put Pappas and Black Swan in a tight battle for a GTA championship top-three finish heading into the final Pirelli World Challenge sprint series doubleheader weekend at Sonoma Raceway, Sept. 15–17.
Pappas started Saturday’s race fourth on the GTA grid but slipped by Perez Companc in the race’s opening laps for third, a position he would keep until the checkered flag.
“The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was strong all weekend, and now that that we’re six months in with this car I feel like we’re getting the most out of it,” said Pappas. “It was a decent weekend overall for us. We just had nothing for the Porsches ahead of us, but we knew that going in, and we’ll have to walk away knowing that we were as strong as we could be. Saturday’s podium was definitely the highlight, and it’s admittedly a little frustrating that we didn’t repeat that Sunday. Seeing the leaders get backed up a bit in the final corner, I felt I might be able to force myself into the equation. As can happen at the end of close racing, the assessment was overly optimistic and resulted in a spin, but we know the pace was there and we’ll be well suited for the rest of the year.”
A late spin cost Perez Companc what appeared to be a certain fourth-place finish but also left him and the Champ1 team determined to do better in Sunday’s second race of the weekend.
Pappas held third for the majority of the Sunday finale and was closely followed throughout by Perez Companc in fourth as the Mercedes-AMG GT3 duo kept the pressure on the lead pair of Porsches.
“We were fighting the whole race, the four of us up front, but it is nearly impossible to pass on this track unless someone makes a mistake,” said Companc. “On the last lap I tried to push as hard as I could. I was weaving from one side to the other behind the other Mercedes-AMG GT3 and it paid off. He made a mistake in the last corner of the last lap. I made the pass and finished third. It was beautiful, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was really, really good. We had some push when we were behind another car, but I would find clean air in the middle of the corners to compensate for that. I learned from that in Saturday’s race when I got frustrated and spun, but Sunday was much better. I am very happy.”
As the four GTA leaders came down to take the checkered flag, Pappas spun in the final corner of the circuit on the last race lap, allowing Perez Companc to slip by for third. Pappas quickly recovered and crossed the finish line fifth in the GTA class.
The third-place finish for Champ1 and Perez Companc was the first podium showing for the first-year Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer team and driver in Pirelli World Challenge GTA competition.
A third Mercedes-AMG customer team also raced at Mid-Ohio this past weekend in the top-tier GT class. Ryan Dalziel finished seventh in the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 on Saturday and ninth in Sunday’s race.
Dalziel stayed in touch with the lead pack in both sprints but lacked the pace to pull off a pass for position in either race. A skirmish by a pair of Ferraris just in front let Dalziel improve a position in Saturday’s race, but no such opportunities emerged on Sunday.
“It was really a tough weekend,” said Dalziel. “We knew coming in that with some of the recent BoP (Balance of Performance) changes we were going to struggle a little bit, but we struggled a lot. Mechanically, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 feels great, and we made good changes throughout the weekend to get the handling well. As a team, we had a good weekend, we executed well, but the cards we were dealt this weekend were not the right ones. Hopefully, for the next one we can be a bit more competitive, but great job from everybody at CRP Racing and our sponsors DeVilbiss and HAWK.”
Next up for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport customer teams in North America is the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Aug. 4-6.
The next event on the Pirelli World Challenge schedule for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing is the SprintX race weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus, in Tooele, Utah, Aug. 11–13. A complementary championship to the main Pirelli World Challenge sprint series, SprintX events requires two drivers per car and a driver change in both of each weekend’s 60 minute sprint races.