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Baptista, Soulet Make Grand Entrance with Pro-Am Victory in SprintX Opener
K-PAX Racing extended its success Saturday to two consecutive race weekends where the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 has finished on the podium. In the opening round of the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX division, Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet climbed to the top-step by overtaking the Pro-Am field at Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
“We’re very happy with the result from the No. 3 car,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “Rodrigo and Maxime did a great job in winning the Pro-Am class. It’s great for points, and it’s great for them. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
In qualifying, Baptista recorded the second-fastest time in Pro-Am with a 2:06.332 – which was less than one-tenth of a second from the top-qualifier in the class. The No. 3 car started sixth overall on the grid for the race, and into the first turn of the opening lap, Baptista was a part of a four-wide shootout for track position. Baptista said looking back – and at the bigger picture – this was the only part of the race where he would have taken a more conservative approach.
“I had a really good start,” Baptista said. “But into the first turn we were four-wide, and I should have slowed down a bit to stay out of trouble. When you’re looking for the championship, you need the points. But, the pace was good and I tried to be as quick as the guys up-front. We did a good job and were able to pick up some positions.”
Baptista exited the first turn unscathed and within the first six minutes of the 60-minute race, made the pass for the lead in Pro-Am. From there, Baptista settled into a rhythm and on the 18th lap, recorded the team’s fastest time of the race of 2:08.198. When Baptista handed off the car to Soulet at the halfway point, the No. 3 car was the only Pro-Am car in the overall top-five.
“I think we have a great car that’s quick at this track,” Baptista said. “Through the week, Max has really helped me with the car and data. During the race, I was between the Pro guys, which was excellent. We stayed on them, and that’s something I want to continue to do this season. It’s not easy, but I’m giving it my best.”
Soulet maintained the car’s quick pace around the 3.4-mile course, and he was not challenged for the Pro-Am lead for the remainder of the race – even in the final seven minutes of the race, when a punctured right-rear tire forced him to drive more carefully. Like Baptista, Soulet could not help but to think “what could have been” had he not been restricted by the tire. He thought an overall podium finish – among the Pro competitors – was attainable.
“I think without the puncture, we could have caught the other three guys,” Soulet said. “You just try to not go on the curbs and if you hit the curbs on this track, you lose so much time. I was just a bit more careful on the exits. The tire went down with about seven laps remaining, and that’s quite a ways until the finish-line. I was a bit worried because a puncture is never a good thing. We could have fought for an overall podium, but I am so happy with a class win. It’s great for Rodrigo’s championship.”
Having set the fastest lap in practice on Friday with a 2:06.463, the No. 9 team was poised to continue its strong start into the weekend. The driver pairing of Álvaro Parente and Andy Soucek did just that. Parente, who qualified in the No. 9, also set the second-fastest lap but in the Pro-Pro class. The time, 2:05.751, was nearly eight one-hundredths of a second from pole position. Nevertheless, Parente started the race in the first row.
“We’re really proud of the whole K-PAX Racing crew after our weekend in St. Petersburg and the work they had to do to build the No. 9 car back up,” Law said. “They had a solid run, and qualifying was unbelievable. Álvaro was only eight one-hundredths of a second from the pole, which was just a testament to all the hard work our team, drivers and everyone here did.”
About halfway into the race, the No. 9 car was involved in an incident with a car leaving the pits. The No.9 suffered minor damage but set the car further back in the field. Soucek said “it was a shame” because he felt the team had a car destined for a podium finish.
From there – and for the majority of Soucek’s stint – the No. 9 was nose-to-tail with the team’s No. 3 car. Soucek tailed Soulet, and he felt that there was a brief window where he could have challenged for the position. The race marked the first time the two have competed in separate cars under the Bentley banner.
“We know each other so well, and we know our pace is similar,” Soucek said. “I spun [from the earlier contact], and he overtook me in that moment. He had new tires, so he struggled for a few laps until he got to temperature. In those two laps, my tires were the best. The opportunity was there in the beginning, but it’s very difficult to pass here. I respect that he’s my teammate and that we’re in different categories as well. Even if he let me pass, I think we could have only got quicker for tomorrow’s grid.”
The No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 will start fifth overall in Sunday’s finale, and the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 will start fourth overall. For more details, visit world-challenge.com.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th) – “It’s been great working with Andy [Soucek]. We were teammates before, and we both race to win and to get positive results. We did not get the results we hoped for today, but we are improving. He told me a few things this morning that worked well. The pairing is great, and we’ll be looking for a better result on Sunday.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th) – “I think although we have a very good driver pairing with Álvaro and myself, the others in the field are very strong. The top-seven or eight cars are very good. For Sunday, I hope to have a clean start, to settle into a rhythm, to make no mistakes, to follow the pack and to try to have an opportunity to overtake. Then, I can give the car to Álvaro in the best position possible. If the guys can do a pit stop like they did today, then maybe we can jump some positions. If Álvaro can also go out there on new tires and put down some good lap times, then we can undercut some of our enemies. So, I’m hoping for a few places better tomorrow, and hopefully we can make it up to the podium.”
Rodrigo Baptista (Pro-Am) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “I think the best thing for me is to have a guy like Max [Soulet] in the same car, because then I can compare data. It’s very beneficial because the biggest thing I need to learn is more about the car. I think the goal for tomorrow is to finish in the top-three overall. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.”
Max Soulet (Pro-Am) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 2 – 1st) – “We’ll be starting P4 from the outside which isn’t the greatest place to start, but we’ll see what we can do. Every start is different, so I’m not going to make a plan. We just need to stay clean and out of trouble, and with that, everything will go well.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 110 podiums, 44 wins, four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class K-PAX 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.
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, Brian Gush 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.
Optimum Polymer Technologies, the manufacturer of Opti-Coat, was founded in Memphis, Tenn., on July 1, 2001 by Dr. David Ghodoussi. Prior to this, Dr. Ghodoussi worked for over 12 years as an Organic Chemist overseeing research and development focused in polymers and automotive paint formulations.
For more than a decade, Opti-Coat has been setting the industry standard with their unique coating technologies developing and manufacturing proprietary resins utilizing Silicon Carbide (SiC) chemistry. Opti-Coat’s purpose is to provide clients with a product that is the most durable, innovative and protective coating available.
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