- *@ASoucek (10th)
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K-PAX Racing Earns Podium at Nürburgring
Team adds two Top-10’s to virtual résumé
K-PAX Racing, which announced its e-racing program’s expansion into the SRO E-Sport GT “Am” Championship on Friday, saw nine team-branded Bentley Continental GT3s compete across two SRO-hosted championships, including the GT Rivals E-Sports Invitational. The team’s action-packed weekend – four races within a two-day span – was highlighted by a podium finish.
The podium finish, awarded to Andy Soucek and the No. 9 Continental GT3 in the SRO E-Sport GT Series “Pro” race at the legendary Nürburgring course, is the team’s second top-three showing in three rounds of action alongside SIRIO eSports. Soucek took delivery of his first-ever at-home simulator eight weeks ago, with only four pro-level virtual races to his name.
SRO E-Sport GT Series
Soucek’s podium finish was not the only highlight of the Pro-level race, as Jordan Pepper also showed his sim racing prowess early in the No. 3 Continental GT3. Pepper, who helped K-PAX Racing and SIRIO eSports to their first victories as a unit in the series-opener, picked up pole position for the race (1:53.196). Soucek was the second-quickest Bentley in the session, earning the eighth spot on the grid (1:53.652).
Pepper, who is set to drive under the banner in real-world this season, has given K-PAX Racing its first-ever pole and victory worldwide in e-sports. The pole-setting time was two-tenths quicker than the field, and Pepper said the time recorded speaks to how committed the total operation is to achieving success week-to-week.
While Pepper led the 44-car field into the green flag for 60-minutes of clear-weather action, his time up-front was short-lived because of a spin exiting the first turn of the opening lap, eventually forcing him to pit at around the 35-minute mark. In the opening laps, Soucek was able to make his way into fourth position and spent the first 10 minutes of his campaign looking for a move to third. Soucek was able to complete an aggressive maneuver at about the 12-minute mark, picking up podium position, and the No. 9 would maintain that position until the checkers waved it by.
“I’m super-excited and pumped-up for this result,” Soucek said. “I was really pushing to get one key race in for me. It was really unlucky for Jordan though because he was looking really strong to win this one. He had a really good pace, and he was always slightly quicker than me in practice. He would have done a mega job there as well.”
“I could not be happier after our third race – one win and two podiums. There is not much more we could ask for. At Spa we had the added weight, so it was unrealistic to think that we’d be in the top-three there. So all-in-all, we’re very happy. I think the job K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports has been doing is tremendous – the amount of hours we spend in the front of the computer looking at data, talking with our engineers, and understanding how the car behaves in every different condition. It’s unreal.”
K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports continued to show its Continental GT3s’ blistering speeds around Nürburgring in the Silver class, securing another spot inside the top-five on the grid. Philippe Simard, driver of the No. 9, was also named the fastest-Bentley in the 45-car field with a fifth-best qualifying time of 1:55.824. Alberto Garcia, who has a top-five race finish to his name, qualified 7th in the No. 6 (1:55.890), while Tariq Gamil occupied the 29th spot with the No. 3 (1:56.592).
The Silver race saw wet conditions, and the K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports drivers battled a slick track through 60 minutes of action. Contact eventually claimed each of the team’s three-car assault during the race, ultimately putting their Continental GT3s off the pace. However, Garcia was able to show resilience, improving to the cusp of a Top-10 finish – which would have been his second Top-10 performance in three rounds.
The first round of the amateur championship took place the day before at Silverstone Circuit (UK), where Steve and Raig Strehlow cemented their names in the grid as K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports “Am” drivers. The Strehlow brothers continued to work closely with the K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports operation following a “shoot-out” style driver selection in April, assisting with driver development before qualifying themselves for the grid last week.
The Strehlows lined-up on the grid in neighboring positions (R. Strehlow, 21st; S. Strehlow, 22nd) for 60-minutes of sprint action. The two Continental GT3s were faced with rainy conditions, which the team accounted for while preparing for the first round during the week. The two managed to make their way up the star-studded grid unscathed, Raig reaching as high as 12th nearing the halfway mark. Steve followed closely behind brother Raig, climbing as high as 17th.
Similar to the Silver class that followed their race on Sunday, contact on the track created a difficult drive for both the Strehlows, who showed some promising pace in their team debut before the damage negatively affected each car.
The “Super Strehlow Bros.” will be back in action Saturday, May 30th at Spa -Francorchamps, where the other two classes competed one round earlier. Coverage will start at 3 p.m. (ET) and the Race Department Twitch channel.
The Pro and Silver classes will take on the Barcelona course May 31st, with coverage starting at 7:45 a.m. (ET) on the SRO Facebook, Twitch and YouTube streams.
SRO GT Rivals E-Sports Invitational
K-PAX Racing saw its best finish of the SRO GT Rivals E-Sports Invitational series in the sixth round Sunday, as Guy Cosmo recorded his second Top-10 performance in the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3. Cosmo, with less than two months of sim racing experience, finished sixth in a 40-car field at Barcelona – making it two Top-10 finishes globally for the team.
The sixth-round of GT Rivals action featured a newly introduced “ghost-mode” start, controlling the amount of carnage usually seen at the start of each race. The ghosting option is used in the E-Sport GT Championship as well, making for an exciting, mad-dash into the first turn while allowing the field to create space amongst each other. While Cosmo used this feature to his advantage, picking up positions in the opening sequence from 18th, real-world teammate Patrick Byrne spun as the ghost-car ahead of him limited his view out the windshield.
“I had a little bobble at the beginning – this time not from contact but because I couldn’t see,” Byrne explained. “They turned-on ghosting for the first two laps, meaning you can drive right through cars. There are ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ to it. I can run my line and get a good start, which I had a phenomenal one and probably the best one I’ve had. I tried to keep two wheels on the track and pass everyone, and I took the risk unlike if we weren’t in ghost mode. I went to brake and someone ahead of me braked early, so I could not see ahead of me because I was looking through their car. I didn’t make any substantial mistakes from thereon out.”
Byrne has consistently been able to recover from incidents with each round and Barcelona was no different, as his No. 9 Continental GT3 was able to improve to a 16th position finish. In an exciting final two minutes of the race, Cosmo was engaged in a three-way battle, with the best-case scenario being a sixth-place finish.
Cosmo defended seventh from a hard-charging competitor behind him, successful maneuvering the classic “over-under” and blocking the car into the final minute. Cosmo opted to create space and eventually let the two cars surrounding him battle for position, where contact opened the door for him to wheel his No. 9 Continental GT3 to his best-finish yet in the series.
“The last couple of laps where Kenton [Koch] was catching up to me and put that super-late move on me going into turn six, I saw him go for it and I left him room,” Cosmo said. “As I thought, he slid, and I was able to retaliate and get the spot back. From there, it was a matter of keeping him behind me while running down [Keith] Briscoe.”
“He got wide on the middle-straight, I ducked underneath him, and we had a drag race down – though I was on the losing side. That moment, I wondered if I should have just checked-up and let him in front of me so Kenton would not have the chance to retaliate. Kenton got by, and I was able to get by the two of them when they got a little loose together. It worked out perfectly.”
The two will endure Mount Panorama (Aus.) Sunday, May 24th at 3 p.m. (ET). LIVE streaming can be found on the series’ Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels.
Andy Soucek (PRO) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd) – ““I think my result just sums up the effort and the work we have put into this program. I was super nervous to bring the car back home. The first few laps were a bit crazy – a few incidents there and a touch with a few cars in the first corners. But lucky enough, I was in a good position to then clear-up a little bit of space to have a pretty comfortable race to finish third with good pace and only a few second off the leaders. K-PAX Racing has to be proud of what we are achieving in the virtual world.
Jordan Pepper (PRO) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 32nd) – “The start of race day was pretty mega. We knew we prepared enough, and we were very confident heading into the day. I knew if I just got a solid top-five qualifying time, we’d have a chance at the win. It went better than expected, putting it on pole with a clean lap. We were able to piece the laps together, so that was awesome. On pole by two-tenths shows how much effort we put in since Spa. It was a big reward for the whole team. In the end, it got destroyed by internet difficulties – not by contact. It’s a bit of a shame considering all the hours we put in, to have it destroyed by something out of our control. Those things happen, but now we need to look ahead to Barcelona.”
Philippe Simard (SILVER) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 32nd) – “Again, it was a result that doesn’t show what we could do. But still, we built a strong package for this race. Preparation was spot-on for both dry and wet since we got the cars near the front in both different classes in different conditions. For qualifying, it went as good as it could have gone in a tricky session, and the Bentley is an amazing race car in the wet so we were looking good. Unfortunately, I was again on the receiving end of contact from overly aggressive drivers, and there is not much that can be done to protect us from that. We will keep pushing and try again in Barcelona.”
Tariq Gamil (SILVER) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 15th) – “I want to thank the team for their tremendous support, because we continue to work great together. In terms of our preparation, we did very well. We had a structured week, working on different setups under different conditions. We all worked well developing the setup, but we were thrown a curveball on Friday with an update on the game that changed the front-alignment of the car. It was tricky, but fortunately we were able to figure out what was different from before – and quickly.
I was glad we had a wet race today, because I felt we were well-prepared and strong under those conditions. The Silvers felt we had a really good pace in the wet, and though my qualifying didn’t go well today, based on our testing I knew we were going to be strong.
Into the second turn on the first lap, there was an incident ahead of me, and I had zero time to react. It was sudden, and I tried my best turning right to avoid it, but the [down] car clipped my rear-left and spun me. I lost a lot of ground at that point, but because of incidents ahead of me, I managed to climb up roughly 10 positions. I got caught up again in turn four on the seventh lap, and I personally do not think I was at fault, but it spun me around. The same thing into turn one the next lap – frustrating, but the finishing positions do not show how strong we are. Between all our teamwork between each other, we were very well-prepared.
I want to thank my father, my brother Amir, my sisters Mona and Dalia, my nephews Ali and Youssef, as well as the support of my sim racing buddies Bobby Pennington, Geoffroy Tassenoy, Cristian Haba, Dirk Steffen and Andrew Scott.”
Alberto Garcia (SILVER) – No. 6 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 11th) – “It was a complicated race from the start where we stayed in 37th, 38th position after the tap. I had to come back with a damaged car. There were a lot of cars ahead that were slower and overtaking was very difficult, so I tried again. I had a few more failures than others that made us miss the points in the chaotic finish that was seen. A bit disappointed with what happened at the beginning, but I am happy with the final comeback. It’s a pity not to be in the points. Too bad about my teammates who also had similar difficulties throughout the race.”
Steve Strehlow (AM) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 38th)– “We felt very prepared because we spent a lot of time trying and working different setups. Unfortunately, our race setup wasn’t as fast. The Top-10 was very fast. The car was pulling after I made contact with a car that braked earlier than I did. It was bad luck at this stage, but I feel we have the team in K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports to improve.”
Raig Strehlow (AM) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 42nd) – “My pace was very good so I felt I could score some points. It’s just disappointing because we worked hard for this race. I was able to push hard right at the start, overtaking three guys over the first few laps. The car was a little bit antsy in a few areas, and I wasn’t able to easily pass the opponent ahead of me from there. When the incident happened, I was trying to just manage my lap-times, but the car had too much understeer from there. I think my lap times were good, I kept my enemies in front of me so I could push a little harder toward them. I think my brother and I have some good ideas, so we can truly contend in this championship. We just need to look forward to the next race.”
Guy Cosmo – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 6th) – “It was such an interesting race to have the ghosting feature in the very beginning. I think it kept all the huge wrecks from happening, but the downside is usually after the first lap or two, I’m already into 11th or 12th position so I just needed to hammer through. I had to put together consistent laps and have the race come to me. We had some pretty good, fair racing all the way through, so we had long stints of just hammering those consistent laps out.
I’ve had so many frustrations with this process, but all-in-all, it was a really fun race. It was hard fought, hammering it out lap after lap – trying to find more time while not making any mistakes. One you learn about this whole thing, you get better and better every lap.
(RE: Whether or not you will incorporate simulators more in training following season): “My objective with all this is to truly understand the differences between the sim world and real life, and to use the sim to my advantage as best as I can. It’s phenomenal for learning race tracks and recreating feelings. The biggest frustration I have with it though is what makes a lap time and figuring out how to be fast – which is a whole different story. I would say a sim is beneficial to keep practicing technique and learning new tracks.”
Patrick Byrne – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 16th) – “(RE: Whether or not you will incorporate simulators more in training following season): “I think the stuff that’s relatable to real racing, I will use. Driving a simulator and learning the nuances is like learning a new car. There are a lot of relatable things that will keep you in check for training – especially for mental preparation, it really helps. If you don’t know a track by chance, then the simulator instantly becomes extremely beneficial because it literally takes nothing to go [sim] drive that track – as long as you want for however many laps you want. But, if you’ve been to that track – like I’ve been to Laguna Seca throughout my entire life – I really don’t need to focus on simulator because the real-world aspects are more important. For example, asking yourself, ‘When did they pave it last?’ or finding actual changes.”
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.
Circuit of The Americas