For the first time in five years, Blackdog Speed Shop will hit the streets of southern California at one of the world’s best known street circuit events. The powerhouse program will take its two McLaren 570S GT4 race cars to Long Beach for this weekend’s round of the Pirelli GT4 America Sprint championship.
The 2014 season was the last time Blackdog Speed Shop competed at the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. This time around, Tony Gaples and Michael Cooper will be back in the saddle of the team’s two McLaren GT4s – each of which have undergone deep dives atthe Blackdog shop following the season-opening weekend at St. Petersburg a month ago.
The combination of new racecars and a relatively unfamiliar track will make for a challenging – albeit a welcomed one – for the Blackdog Speed Shop team. Overcoming adversity is nothing new to the program, which won GTS Team championships in 2013, 2017 and 2018.
Factory driver Cooper, who will drive the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren, made the most recent appearance among Blackdog team members, having participated in the GT class in 2016 and 2017.
Gaples will pilot the No. 11 Blackdog McLaren and returns to Long Beach, where he raced from 2008-2014 with four top-10 finishes in that stretch. The highlight was a fourth-place finish in the 2011 GT race after starting 10th.
Results like that at Long Beach this year will go a long way toward positioning Blackdog Speed Shop for another championship run three races in the next six weeks.
The Pirelli GT4 America event at Long Beach is April 12-14 from the historic Long Beach (Calif.) street circuit. The race is set for 10 a.m. PT on Sunday, April 14 with live coverage on gt4-america.com.
MICHAEL COOPER, NO. 10 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “Every street course race is exciting because of the environment surrounding the race but also because the tracks are a challenge to drive. The Long Beach circuit is longer than the street course in St. Petersburg with more time spent on the straights. The weekend will be just as tough as there’s no room for error and it’s always difficult to pass, which makes qualifying that much more important. Everybody from Blackdog Speed Shop and McLaren - including myself - has been working as hard as possible to understand and improve from St. Pete. I’m confident we’ll be in a position to fight at the pointy end of the field in Long Beach.”
TONY GAPLES, NO. 11 BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP McLAREN 570S GT4: “It’s been far too long since we’ve raced at Long Beach. I’m really excited to go back and compete at such a great event with the huge crowds that turn out. It’s a place we need to be every year, to be honest. We were able to take some time after St. Petersburg to learn a little more about the McLaren. It’s an on-going process but we’re excited to see what kind of progress we have been able to make. Hopefully we can put on a good show for all the Long Beach fans.”