A new year of racing will have a lot more ‘new’ than usual for Blackdog Speed Shop. The opening race of the Pirelli GT4 Americas Sprint Championship will see the three-time, title-winning squad debut a new race car from a new manufacturer… albeit with a couple of familiar faces.
Tony Gaples and Michael Cooper will race Blackdog’s new pair of McLaren 570S GT4s for the first time during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend as the team looks to add more championship trophies to its collection. The Pirelli GT4 Americas season – formerly Pirelli World Challenge GTS – opens with a pair of races at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.
Gaples will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren while Cooper will compete for the first time as a McLaren factory driver in the No. 10 Blackdog entry. The first race is set for 4 p.m. ET on Saturday and the second at 11:20 a.m. ET on Sunday.
The race will be streamed live on world-challenge.com with CBS Sports Network television coverage at a later date.
Both Blackdog Speed Shop drivers have exemplary records at the St. Petersburg venue. Cooper is a two-time winner in Touring Car competition with a third-place GT finish also to his credit. Gaples posted runner-up finishes in the GTSA category two years ago and placed third in the class in 2018.
As a team, Blackdog Speed Shop has won four times in GTS at St. Petersburg since 2014 including a sweep of both rounds a year ago. The team has never failed to reach the podium at least once every year at the event since 2013.
Owning to strict GT4 regulations, the McLaren 570S GT4 shares much with the road-going McLaren 570S Coupe. Among the common features is an identical carbon chassis, a mid-mounted 3.8L twin-turbo V8 motor and seven-speed paddle-shift transmission.
The Pirelli GT4 America championship begins March 8-10 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
MICHAEL COOPER, NO. 10 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “The team and I are very familiar with each other from our past successes, and of course last year’s SprintX campaign. The crew always comes to the track with the cars ready to perform. From a driver’s perspective that gives you a lot of confidence. Starting the season at a street course always brings a little extra excitement to the paddock. I’m looking forward to getting back on track and competing in the 50-minute sprint races this series was built on.”
TONY GAPLES, NO. 11 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “St. Petersburg is a great place to open our new GT4 program. This is a vibrant area and has a good history of racing. It also has been very good to our Blackdog Speed Shop program over the years. We had a solid test with our new McLarens at COTA a couple of weeks ago to get a feel for the balance and performance of the 570S GT4. Some of that can transfer to St. Petersburg, especially some of the slow- and mid-speed complexes. Our goal is to come away with more knowledge about these cars. And if we’re lucky maybe we will come back with a trophy or two.”
About Blackdog Speed Shop
Blackdog Speed Shop Blackdog Speed Shop is a high-performance, custom car builder in the northern suburbs of Chicago specializing in ground-up car builds, high-performance upgrades for engines, transmissions, suspension and exhaust including computer and dyno tuning. Whether you have a modern muscle car, vintage muscle, 1930s hot rod or a foreign exotic, you will enjoy the Blackdog experience.