Jun 21

Two Top Fives for K-PAX Racing during SRO E-Sports Finale Weekend

SONOMA, Calif., 2020
Two Top Fives for K-PAX Racing during SRO E-Sports Finale Weekend

Team Tackles Bathurst and Kyalami across three classes

Xynamic Motorsport Photography

 K-PAX Racing has plugged into the virtual racing scene since April, with hopes of creating a successful e-sports racing program to endure weeks of SRO E-Sports GT Series action. The team’s undying dedication to cultivating a winning program – similar to its annual real-world aspirations – was seen throughout the five rounds of competition, and in Sunday’s season finale, the team was again able to show its strengths in a new world.

K-PAX Racing, alongside SIRIO eSports, was not only able to prove its unified effort early-on in the season, but also was able to expand its five-car Bentley Continental GT3 program into the amateur ranks with two more team-branded cars – completing a full-team assault on all of the series’ classes. The team immediately saw success, taking the checkers in the first round of “Pro” action, and finished strong with two top-five performances.

The series finally kicked off with the amateur ranks on Saturday, as the team battled at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama – a course voted by the public. The team’s two-car effort, piloted by brothers Steve and Raig Strehlow, were able to qualify mid-pack – 11th and 15th respectively – but carried a strong pace in the race’s opening sequence to move into top-10 territory.

Raig unfortunately fell victim to contact on the second lap, heavily damaging the front of his Continental GT3. Steve however, was able to keep improving from his starting position, soon making his way into the top-five by evading incidents around him and by his consistent lap times. Steve would eventually give K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports its third top-10 finish in four races and the team’s best class finish of its campaign.

The Pro and Silver classes took center-stage for Sunday’s finale, where the public vote shifted focus to Kyalami Circuit for back-to-back 60-minute races. In the Pro category, both Jordan Pepper and Andy Soucek were able to secure the two-quickest qualifying times recorded by a Continental GT3. Pepper secured the third spot on the grid (1:40.245) and Soucek the sixth spot (1:40.461).

Despite having some minor technical difficulties at the start on the Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) server, Pepper was not only able to regain his starting position in short time, but also move into second to contend for the win. Soucek, who moved into the top-five quickly in the race, was unable to finish the final round due to an unserved drive-through penalty – however upon review following the race, Soucek was not docked any points as he was forced wide by contact and was not the cause.

Pepper, who felt he had the car to win, was able to chase down the lead car in his campaign after finding his stride. With about 20 minutes remaining, Pepper contested for the lead and in an intense battle, spun. Pepper was able to regroup and recollect his spots to earn the team a podium finish. Pepper concluded the season fifth in points out of 48 cars with his two podium finishes in five rounds.

“It was a bit unfortunate that I got a bit of traffic from one of the Ferrari’s in qualifying, because maybe we would have had a shot at the pole,” Pepper said. “Knowing this track so well, living 10 minutes from it in the real-world, it’s an amazing driver’s track but overtaking can be quite difficult – especially in a GT3 car.”

“I was a man on a mission. This championship hasn’t gone my way obviously, winning at the beginning then being taken out three times. I made a bit of a bold move [for the lead] and it didn’t pay off – maybe I should have stuck the car in a bit further – but in this game, when your nose gets touched you spin around. I made a late charge again and finished second.”

The Silver class also saw three of the K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports Continental GT3s qualifying near the top of the field. Philippe Simard led the team’s three-car effort, qualifying fifth. Teammates Alberto Garia and Tariq Gamil secured the seventh and ninth spot. Unlike the Pro race, the Silver race was held in wet conditions, presenting new adversity for the team and the 40-car field. The team adapted to the wet conditions, putting a precedent on qualifying pace, rather than a more balanced approach between that and the race session.

Gamil particularly showed his slick race-craft and determination behind the wheel of his simulator. He dropped back to 17th after an intense first lap by the field, but the skilled sim racer rapidly climbed back through the traffic, gaining six spots by about the 10-minute mark. After making a pass for the top-10, Gamil found clean air and was able to consistently gain up to one second on the competitors ahead of his with each lap. He would ultimately finish 6th, adding to the team’s top-10 tally throughout the season.

“Unlike previous races where our focus was more balanced between qualifying and race testing, we focused more on qualifying pace this time and it paid off well for both the Pros and Silvers,” Gamil said. “As I really needed a decent result here to be eligible for the Grand Finale, I chose to be cautious at the start of the race, though maybe too cautious.”

“I dropped back to 17th from ninth by the end of the first lap. Whilst frustrating, I knew it was still a long race and while others might struggle and feel uncomfortable in the wet conditions, I relish it and my experience in rally sims and drifting in sims serves me well in the wet. I drove as hard as I could, making my way past cars that spun off either as a result of incidents or mistakes and would rapidly gain positions in the early laps of the race.”

A grand finale race will give the series’ star performers from each class another chance to demonstrate their sim skills in a “winner-take-all” contest. It will feature the top-20 from both the Pro and Silver standings, as well as the 10 best Am Series competitors, with a date and location to be announced ahead of the event.

DRIVER QUOTES

Andy Soucek (PRO) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 24th) – “Qualifying went really well – sixth position, which was a very good starting point. My aim was to finish in the top-five in order to score some valuable points for the championship. The start didn’t go as planned. I was very careful, trying to protect Jordan [Pepper], and therefore braked slightly early. There seemed to be no threat from behind, but all the sudden there was some contact by some of the competitors behind me which caused a chain reaction. I got the worst of it and got hit on the side, and I spun a competitor around – absolutely not my fault. The stewards didn’t think so and issued me a drive-through when I was already planning out the order because I already dropped to ninth. I recovered back to fifth, and I was catching fourth and third, and realistically, I think we could have finished on the podium because of the pace and the way the car felt. We appealed the decision because I was disqualified for not pitting, but I did it because I was trying to get in contact with race control but they wouldn’t answer. After the race they apologized, and after looking at the action, it was decided that it wasn’t my fault. It was very unlucky, but I’m happy for Jordan. I think he had the pace to win the race.

I have to say, I would never have expected this level of compromise and professionalism from everyone involved in this project. Starting with the sim racers and me and Jordan – but all the team around us from SIRIO eSports that has taken us to another level. We had probably the best race engineering you could hope for – even in real-life – and we’ve had a really good team manager that’s been always looking after us, Raul [Suarez]. Emilio [de Villota] as team principal has been in every team meeting for almost two months, coordinating and going through every single detail. We had a test plan, sheets with all the timetables and meeting afterwards. The process and level of professionalism has been higher than has been higher than any team I’ve raced with. The way we approach sim racing – testing every day for hours – is different than in real-life because track time is limited. So, the amount of testing you can do is huge [in sim]. I’m super proud of us, and we were the best Bentleys in the Pro and Silver classes, which is amazing. It shows the level of the drivers and of the team that pushes us to be our best.”

Jordan Pepper (PRO) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) – “Qualifying was mega, as we got third – which is pretty good considering the track is usually dominated by Porsches and Audis. So, I was really happy there, and we knew we had a strong car for the race. We got off to an okay start. The game has this widget you have to follow and mine wasn’t working, so I ended up being fourth after the first lap. I managed to work my way up into second and had a massive gap to chase down. I managed to catch the lead car. The pace was absolutely amazing. I saw my move with 20 minutes to go, and you don’t get many chances to make a pass at this track, so I went for it and he shut the door. Unfortunately, the contact led to me spinning. Ultimately, it wasn’t what we intended but I put my head down and worked my way right back up to the tail-end of the leader. I just didn’t have as much laps remaining to try again. Second was bittersweet because I knew we had the pace to challenge for the championship and for the win today. I’m incredibly thankful for the amount of effort they put in, and it was awesome to be a part of such an incredible team. All the credit goes out to all the guys on this project. Now it’s time to go hunting for some trophies in the real world.”

Philippe Simard (SILVER) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 40th) – “Kyalami was a good representation of the rest of the season for me. Strong in qualifying, but I couldn’t stay out of trouble in the race. What an amazing track though. It was my first time there and I loved getting up to speed on it. Tariq [Gamil] and Jordan [Pepper] showed we had strong pace both in the wet and the dry. Not quite done yet with the season even if I am ‘out.’ I’ll make sure to give full support to Andy [Soucek], Jordan and Alberto [Garcia] who qualified for the big finale.”

Tariq Gamil (SILVER) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 6th) – “All in all, I’m happy with the way I drove today. I had the car mostly under control throughout the race, with the odd mistake here and there but most of the time, I was quick and more importantly, consistent throughout. It’s a shame that the race didn’t go well for Alberto and Philippe but in such extreme weather conditions, you can easily become a victim of others’ mistakes and get taken out.

With the end of the championship, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jim [Haughey], Brendan [Capria], Andy [Soucek], Emilio [de Villota] and Rebecca [Jones] for your support and belief in me and entrusting me to represent the team in the virtual world. Whilst our intentions was always to win, other factors such as BoP balance issues, ambitious competitors taking us out and game bugs/glitches compromised our chances to achieve this. This made it a frustrating experience for us as we all had a strong drive to win. But I believe we learnt a lot as well. This has been the most special moment in my sim racing career and I am honored and grateful for the opportunity you have given me.”

Alberto Garcia (SILVER) – No. 6 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 21st) – “After having a pretty good qualifying session with the difficulty of the track, seventh was not bad.  The start was difficult, as we had to survive the chaos that was going to be created and once again, we have not succeeded. I feel like in the rain we have missed two opportunities for touches or being in the wrong place and wrong struggles. I stayed in 12th after the first lap. On the second lap I had to dodge another accident and I was touched by a car spinning, putting me in 30th after two laps. I’m very disappointed. I tried to overcome it, but it was impossible.  It was little seen behind the cars and we lacked exit speed. Going back I had more problems with more pilots in which none leaves a meter of respite, finishing 21st.  I hope to be classified for the grand finale. Congratulations to Tariq [Gamil] for the result, I am very happy for him and a shame about Phil [Simard], I think he deserves to be among the best but it has happened to me, always being in the wrong place.”

Steve Strehlow (AM) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th) – “That race was sick. Qualifying went fine with an 11th position result – the second fastest Bentley. I’m proud of it, as I can show how consistently fast we K-PAX Racing drivers are. The race start was intense, got double three-wide action and went all for it. I made good progress and was pushing for more. My Continental GT3 was running really fine and after certain laps I won places — thanks to opponents contacts. I could move up to fourth and sadly my car bounced exactly one time from the ground, couldn’t hold it on the asphalt. Fifth place is still top notch.

As I expect it will be the last race: Again I want to thank my family and friends (more and more) for their whole support on this unbelievable journey and K-PAX Racing, SIRIO eSports for the awesome cooperation. Their support means a lot to me and I hope that in future, I can make my family, friends, K-PAX Racing, SIRIO eSports and Bentley proud with having more strong results at the next season.”

Raig Strehlow (AM) – No. 4 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 15th) – “Qualifying went well overall, and I got through the first round without any problems. However, an Audi collided badly on the second lap, and I couldn’t avoid the car in the narrow area. As a result, my front was heavily damaged. Unfortunately, I had some contact with the walls after a few laps, so it became difficult to handle and I had two more strong impacts. After that I unfortunately had to give up. The race was accordingly disappointing. But the season was nevertheless very interesting, because the chances without contacts were definitely there. So, a big thank you to the whole team, my friends and family for their support.”

 About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 148 podiums, 59 wins, four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class, K-PAX Racing has fielded Porsche 911 GT3s during the 2007 – 2008 seasons, Volvo S60s during the 2009 – 2013 seasons, McLaren 12C GT3s in 2014 and McLaren 650S GT3s from 2015 – 2017. The team made a switch to Bentley for 2018, fielding the first-generation Continental GT3 in its first season and the second-generation model in 2019.

About Bentley Motorsport
Bentley Motorsport is based at the Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe. From there, the operation runs Bentley Team M-Sport, and oversees customer racing operations around the world.

The Continental GT3 is built by the Bentley motorsport team in conjunction with M-Sport. The Bentley Motorsport team is led by Bentley Director of Motorsport, Paul Williams supported by M-Sport’s Chief Engineer, Christian Loriaux.

Bentley Motors’ headquarters in Crewe is home to all of its operations including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s four model lines, Continental, Bentayga, Flying Spur and Mulsanne. The combination of fine craftsmanship, using skills that have been handed down through generations, alongside engineering expertise and cutting-edge technology is unique to UK luxury car brands.



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