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K-PAX Racing Collects Three Podiums at Circuit of The Americas
Team leads the Championship after first two rounds
K-PAX Racing not only made its debut in the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3 during the Blancpain GT World Challenge Presented by Euroworld Motorsports at Circuit of the Americas, but it also drove its two cars to the podium three times throughout the weekend. In two rounds, the team earned two second-place finishes – and its first victory of the 2019 season.
“It’s been an amazing weekend and start to the year for us,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “We had podiums on both days. We could not say it enough: Thank you to Bentley for the amount of work they’ve done on these cars. Our drivers did a phenomenal job and our pit-stops were quicker than any other team out there. We had every piece working properly for us this season.”
In the opening round, K-PAX Racing quickly emerged as a title contender for the 2019 crown, dominating the field – while also helping Bentley reach new milestones for its second-generation Continental GT3 car. Both K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3s were able to separate themselves from the field – the No. 3 of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet separated themselves from the third-place car by nearly 40 seconds.
Baptista earned the Shyft Capital “Quick Shyftr Award” for having the fastest lap of the race of 2:06.037. He was one of four drivers to break the 2:07-mark – one of the others was the No. 9 with its fastest lap of 2:06.498.
While qualifying helped in the opener – as both Bentleys qualified in the first row – the finale proved to be more of a challenge for both teams. The No. 3 started fifth overall (second in Pro) on the grid, and the No. 9 had a steeper hill to climb starting 11th overall (5th in Pro). Both Álvaro Parente and Soulet – the starters for each car – managed to escape the congestion without a major incident into the first turn. However, the No. 3 was funneled to the back of the pack, losing valuable track position.
“It was a difficult start to the race,” Soulet said. “There is a rule where you can’t cross the white line, and when the Mercedes dive-bombed, I had to avoid him. Unfortunately, I hit a Porsche that was to my right and spun him around. The only thing I could do is push for recovery.”
Parente managed to regain positions, fighting to sixth at the driver change. Soulet was set back by a drive-through penalty in his stint, but eventually recovered – climbing from 21st and nearly into the Top-10. During the pit-cycle, Andy Soucek took the wheel for the No. 9 and Baptista for the No. 3.
Soucek swiftly moved into podium position, eventually making a pass on the No. 58 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long. Baptista continued to push forward, making his way into the top-five and knocking on the door of a podium as well.
“We had a good starting position, but it was a big mess after it,” Baptista said. “We went to the outside and lost almost 10 positions. After we got the drive-through penalty, we kept pushing because you never know what could happen. We pushed hard and had a great pit-stop. I was always trying to have my best lap every lap and to overtake guys.”
Late in the race, Baptista challenged Long for third. Baptista tried multiple times to under-cut Long but said the life of his tires made the pass difficult. Law said the resiliency of the No. 3 car was “phenomenal” and that “it’s never really over until it’s over.”
“It was a phenomenal drive for those guys,” Law said. “We suffered through a penalty and Max got pushed out at the start. They came all the way up back through the field, and it was nice to see Rodrigo fighting for the podium in the last couple laps. It goes to show that it’s never really over until it’s over. You have to fight all the way to the finish.”
Soucek found his opportunity for the lead following a restart from a late-caution. In spectacular fashion, he got a jump on the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 of Miguel Molina, making a run for first down the front-stretch and into the first corner. Though Soucek – a veteran of the sport – made a push for the lead, he made the decision to not risk losing points from a risky maneuver.
“[Molina] was a bit slow on the restart, and I had a better exit after the green flag,” Soucek said. “So, I could put the power down right at the green flag – which was perfect timing. When we crossed the start-finish line, he was just ahead of me, so I yielded. But when we got to the first corner, my front tires were too cold. I tried to turn but it just wasn’t, so we lost a bit of time there because he could under-cut me on the exit. When we were side-by-side, I gave him space because it was too risky and we needed the points. A win would have been nice, but sometimes you need to take what’s given to you.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd, Race 2 – 2nd) – “I kept it quite safe during my stint, but I was also making some important passes. The plan was just that – to not take any risks. We knew that we could gain some time on the pit-stop. I managed to get up to sixth from 12th and came out in third and we ended up second.
We were lacking a little bit of pace, and we would have liked to be a little quicker – compared to yesterday even. We’ll have to look and see. But we liked this podium because the drivers didn’t make any mistakes, and the guys did a great job on the pit-stops. We were consistent but not quick, and we like to be quick. Let’s see what we can do next time.
Two second-place finishes are good, but they are not a win. When the crew, Andy [Soucek] and I are preparing for races, we want to win. But we’ve had great success with K-PAX Racing and Bentley this weekend, so we’re really happy to be on the podium twice.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd, Race 2 – 2nd) – “There were a few problem cars where the drivers weren’t as competitive, and that didn’t make my life easy at all. There was a difference in driving level and categories, so I tried to be smooth and pass them carefully. The goal was to finish as close as we could to the podium.
I was able to pass Patrick Long on my stint which was good. Then I pulled a bit of a gap before the safety car came out. I knew I had a chance with the Ferrari. He was a bit slow on the restart and I had a better exit after the green flag. So, I could put the power down right at the green flag – which was perfect timing. When we crossed the start-finish line, he was just ahead of me, so I yielded. But when we got to the first corner, my front tires were too cold. I tried to turn but it just wasn’t, so we lost a bit of time there because he could under-cut me on the exit. When we were side-by-side, I gave him space because it was too risky and we needed the points.
A win would have been nice, but sometimes you need to take what’s given to you. I’m pleased. Also, it was a great recovery from the No. 3 car. Finishing first and second, and then second and fourth is a good weekend overall. Now, we need to find some time because we were struggling running against our sister car, and we don’t know why.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 4th) – “We had a good starting position, but it was a big mess after it. We went to the outside and lost almost 10 positions. After we got the drive-through penalty, we kept pushing because you never know what could happen. We pushed hard and had a great pit-stop. I was always trying to have my best lap every lap and overtake guys. We finished fourth, so it was a good weekend for us – after everything that happened today at the start.
I was trying to do my best to pass him, but I knew it would be difficult to pass Patrick [Long]. He fought hard – not dirty – and it was just hard to pass him. I didn’t have a lot of grip on the tires anymore from pushing so hard earlier in my stint to pass the other guys.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 4th) – “It was a difficult start to the race. There is a rule where you can’t cross the white line, and the Mercedes dive-bombed, and I had to avoid him. Unfortunately, I hit a Porsche that was to my right and spun him around. The only thing I could do is push for recovery.
The car was really good and the team did an amazing job. Rodrigo [Baptista] has always done his job perfectly and I’m happy to leave first and second in the championship. We need to keep pushing and keep fighting for [the title]. I think it was a great start to the season.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 128 podiums, 54 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, 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.
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WATKINS GLEN 2019