Motorsports Wraps Up 2015 World Challenge Season - Salinas, CASep. 14 2015
Riding the momentum of a successful double podium weekend at Sonoma Raceway earlier this month, K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports had high hopes for this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Although both McLaren 650S GT3s finished the race, the event failed to produce the results the team had hoped for. Not to be discouraged by the final event’s results, K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports still finished off the season with a celebration of a job well done. In their maiden year, the team earned eight podiums and tied with GT Championship winners Cadillac Racing for most wins in 2015.
The team had a successful debut at Circuit of the Americas, winning the second race of the weekend by over 30 seconds in wet conditions. The positive momentum carried through to St. Petersburg where Kevin Estre earned his second podium of the year. In Round 6 at Barber Motorsport Park, Robert Thorne bounced back from a mechanical issue during warm up to seize the pole position for Round 7. With permission from the team to race each other to the finish, fans watched as Thorne and Estre battled expertly and cleanly, and stood together on the podium for a 1-2 finish, netting Estre his second win. At the halfway point of the season, the team again created the perfect package on the streets of Belle Isle, Detroit for Round 10. Estre again claimed the top step, with Thorne shaking off some gremlins to finish 6th.
The second half of the season again produced successful results but not without its challenges. At Road America’s triple header, punctured tires and contact resulted less than desirable finishing positions. At Mid-Ohio, the best finish fell just outside of the top-5 which took away some much needed championship points. At Miller Motorsports Park, the team made headlines after an agreement could not be reached with the race series for unattainable boost regulations for the McLaren. The team opted to withdraw the No. 6 and No. 9 McLarens from the double header event, knowing it would take them out of contention for the championship. All attention went to the next event, Sonoma Raceway, a road course well suited for the 650S and the home track for Flying Lizard Motorsports. In the penultimate event, Estre earned his 4th win in Race One and another 2nd place finish in Race 2. Thorne finished in 4th place after holding a solid 3rd place position for most of the race until a lapped car held him up and dashed hopes of another podium in the final 15 minutes.
Both McLarens struggled throughout the final weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the 2.238 mile road course nestled in the hills of Monterey, California. With each session, the team worked hard to find the right set up, and the lap times continued to improve with the rest of the GT field. Kevin Estre qualified the No. 9 K-PAX McLaren in 7th, and teammate Robert Thorne in 21st. During the race morning warm up, both entries looked to be competitive for the afternoon’s showcase. In the final standing start, both cars launched off the line well and each driver fought to gain positions. At the halfway point, both drivers reported a lack of grip, and fought hard to gain position as chaos erupted between the championship contenders in the final 15 minutes. In the end, Kevin Estre finished 13th, and Robert Thorne 16th.
Although the stars failed to align for the final event, 2015 proved to be a competitive year for K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports. As sanctioning bodies continue to develop their rules, regulations and packages for the 2016 season, the future looks bright for GT3 race teams. As with every off season, K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports will review all possible opportunities and make an official statement in December regarding plans beyond 2015.
Darren Law // Program Manager
Today, being the final race, it didn’t end as well as we would have liked but I’ve got to say I’m very proud of this team. For us to enter our first season of racing in Pirelli World Challenge, partnering with K-PAX Racing, and leaving here with multiple podiums says a lot about us. The performance that we showed is what was expected of us and we delivered. We’re proud of how things went and we’re looking forward to whatever next year will hold.
Kevin Estre // No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3
It was a really tough race to finish the season with. We have to analyze what happened, but for some reason, the car was really hard to drive. I definitely wanted to finish the season in a better position than where we ended up. But overall, it was a great first season for K-PAX with Flying Lizard Motorsports. The 650S had four wins, and that’s equal to Johnny O’Connell, who won the championship. It shows that we had the speed to fight for the championship. I think everyone learned a lot. We learned from our mistakes, and there was also a lot that was not in our hands. We lost a lot of points in situations that were out of our control. We showed our speed with the podiums and victories. I’m really proud of the team and happy that I was a part of it this season. I hope to be back next year.
Robert Thorne // No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3
It was a frustrating end to the season. The guys on the team put a lot of effort into this weekend and everyone did a great job. We had the car dialed in for the weekend and thought we’d have a strong finish, but the stars just didn’t quite align. We’re still happy with some of the high points in our season and look forward to whatever comes together next season.