- We're counting down the days until our team kicks off the 2019 @SROAmerica season at @COTA. Like always, we look fo… https://t.co/U3J769yltf
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K-PAX Racing Announces Details of 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge America Program
Team Names Full Driver Lineup
K-PAX Racing announced Thursday details of its 2019 program, including its full-time driver lineup. The team, which is entering its second season with Bentley, will be the first North American team to field the manufacturer’s second-generation Bentley Continental GT3. Returning behind the wheel will be drivers Álvaro Parente and Rodrigo Baptista – both who competed for the team last year. Also joining the team for their second season as co-drivers are Bentley factory drivers Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet.
The team, which won the 2018 Sprint GT Team Championship and GT Crew of the Year award, will move from its first-generation models to the all-new second-generation Bentley Continental GT3. Similar to last season, the team will have a two-car operation, with the possibility of a third as a customer car.
“We’re really excited to have the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “After spending all of last season with the first-generation car, we feel the car is a big leap forward, and it should be very competitive.”
Following October’s Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Calif.), Bentley Motorsport delivered two of the second-generation models to the team’s headquarters in Sonoma, Calif. M-Sport fielded the two cars alongside K-PAX Racing’s single entry of a first-generation model for the race, which allowed the team to simultaneously learn more about the car in a racing environment.
“For us, it’s a brand-new car so there are a lot of things to learn,” Law said. “From the mechanical side, I think we’re familiar with the basics of the car. But Bentley has made a number of changes, so the mechanics will need to spend more time with it. The engineers primarily will need to spend the most time on the car. We have a comprehensive test-program in place, that includes several test sessions prior to the start of season to help us learn and develop the car.”
Since announcing its switch to Bentley in December 2017, the team has won 10 times and has made 18 trips to the podium. During the 2018 season and at the same event (Road America), K-PAX Racing and Bentley both hit the 50-win milestone – in team history and for the first-generation model respectively.
“I think we’ve shown our team’s true abilities – having won all three championships in 2016 with a different manufacturer,” Law said. “We have shown that we can switch manufacturers and be successful. In our first season, we had multiple wins and pole positions. It doesn’t matter what car we run. We’re always a championship-level team. We look forward to proving that with the second-generation Continental GT3, and we are thankful that Bentley has put their trust in us, considering us as the only semi-works program in the United States.”
For a fourth consecutive season, Parente will join K-PAX Racing in the team’s pursuit of its second series title in four years. In his debut season, the Porto, Portugal racing veteran helped K-PAX Racing to its fourth championship title in team history. Since, Parente has won 12 times, which ranks second all-time among K-PAX Racing team drivers.
“It gives you stability when the team wants you back, and I did want to return for a fourth year,” Parente said. “We’ve had so much success in the past – a championship, runner-up the next year and then having some wins last season. Everyone is excited for the new car, and I’m motivated by this team that works so well together. They’re focused, and we’re going to try to do what we did the first year by winning a championship.”
Parente said although last season presented some challenges, it laid the foundation for the team to build in 2019. At the California 8 Hours, Parente was able to learn what to expect with the second-generation Continental GT3, and he is confident that the car will perform well at many of the tracks on the schedule.
“We already know the characteristics of the car, so I think we just need to keep learning about it as fast as possible and get it working on all types of tracks,” Parente said.
“[Bentley] has been really helping us reach our full potential – to go fast and do well. They’ve been nothing but helpful in getting us the results we want. It was a tough first season, but we’re going to see what we can do this year. It’s always easier when everyone knows more – the foundations of the car and the people from Bentley, and they now have a year of experience with the car.”
Joining Parente and K-PAX Racing for his second season is Baptista, who climbed the GT ranks to the series’ most premiere class. Baptista, hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, emerged as a future threat for the crown. Promoted from GTA to GT mid-season, Baptista quickly showed his talent by earning three GT wins in his first eight events – including a dominant performance at Watkins Glen International (N.Y.), where he captured both poles, led every lap and won both races in dominating fashion.
“It was a really good year for me,” Baptista said. “My target in the beginning of the championship was the AM title but after the VIR [VIRginia International Raceway], I realized I was able to race wheel to wheel with the big names in the series.”
“Then there’s the Watkins Glen weekend. That was phenomenal because the team was perfect, the car was perfect, and my driving was perfect. I look forward to driving the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3. The car looks amazing, and I am pretty sure Álvaro and I will be fighting for victories under the K-PAX Racing name.”
Teaming up with them will be Soucek and Soulet – both who complete K-PAX Racing’s accomplished international roster. Both drivers, who had experience competing in the second-generation Continental GT3 last season with M-Sport, have since been helping the team adapt to a new car.
“Álvaro and I have talked, especially at Laguna Seca where K-PAX Racing had the first-generation and we had the second-generation model,” said Soucek, who will complete the driver pairing for the No. 9 car. “We went to dinner almost every day together with the rest of the team, and we spoke about both cars – about some of the challenges we’ve faced and some of the positives.”
“We haven’t gone deep into setup because I think that’s something we need to learn, but it will be interesting. We’ll have three test dates leading into the first three events of the season, so we’ll be learning a lot, and we will be bringing a lot of our experience from Europe to try and improve and adapt the setups to the American tracks.”
Soucek said this season is fueled by “unfinished business” for the No. 9 team. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, last season was Soucek’s American racing debut, where he helped K-PAX Racing earn five top-five finishes, including a runner-up performance at Lime Rock Park (Conn.).
“In my case, we have unfinished business,” Soucek said. “K-PAX Racing is one of the team’s I’ve enjoyed working with the most. I’ve met a lot of very cool people and the atmosphere has always been great. We’re not only flying over to fight and race, but to also have fun – which I think is important. We deserve a nice championship in 2019.”
Soulet will once again join Baptista in the No. 3 car. Soulet, racing out of Nivelles, Belgium, won six races in five SprintX events with Baptista. Soulet said he looks to carry that momentum into his second year with the team – starting with testing prior to the season.
“Now that Rodrigo and I have worked together for a year and have learned how each other works, we’ll look to pick up where we left off,” Soulet said. “We’re going to be racing at some new tracks that we didn’t last season, so that will be quite interesting. I’m looking forward to driving this second-generation car at all the tracks, which should suit the car very well.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m extremely excited to come back to the team. I’m really looking forward to the season because we want to get back in the championship hunt and see what we can really do with the second-generation Continental GT3. Our main focus when we started this relationship with Bentley was learning from the first-generation model, coming to grips with everything and now coming back strong in 2019.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I want to thank K-PAX Racing for having me and to Jim Haughey, who gave me this opportunity to drive for a great team, Bentley and all our partners involved in this project. From coming from the GT4 in 2017 to having a great year in 2018, I think my evolution curve is always going up. I will do everything to stay on that path in 2019 – the same way we did last season. Let’s do this.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m very much looking forward to it. When Max and I were offered to go back to America, we were more than happy to return – and pushed for it. The second-generation Continental GT3 was an improvement and development from the first-generation car, and we’ll enjoy it. One thing we are looking forward to is driving the second-generation car at the new tracks, and I’m also excited to be sharing the car with my long-time friend Alvaro. He is obviously a great driver, and together I think we have a really strong driver pairing.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It was an easy decision. I’m very excited to be coming back to K-PAX Racing and back to America. Andy [Soucek] and I really enjoyed it last year, and we’re looking forward to 2019 in the second-generation Continental GT3. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 125 podiums, 53 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.
Race recap: Laguna Seca