Dec 14

K-PAX Racing Homecoming Paves the Way for Championship

SONOMA, Calif, 2021
K-PAX Racing Homecoming Paves the Way for Championship

  • Team Made Debut in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
  • Welcomed three new drivers to its 2021 driver roster from the Lamborghini Family.
  • Collected 10 wins, 21 podiums and eight poles to three major series championships.

The pressure was felt in the Thunderhill Raceway Park paddock for K-PAX Racing, but it was not crushing as some would expect under similar conditions. K-PAX Racing had two weeks to prepare its newly assembled program with Lamborghini Squadra Corse, ahead of its full-time return to the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Championship. Time was ticking.

K-PAX Racing not only took delivery of two cutting-edge Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs, but also complemented its total transition with new, but proven drivers from across the world. The stage was set. The team experienced its first on-track sessions with the 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V-10 Italian bull, simultaneously introducing three drivers from the Lamborghini family – Andrea Caldarelli, Giovanni Venturini and Corey Lewis – to the operation. Jordan Pepper returned to K-PAX Racing from its 2020 campaign in Europe, completing a total remodel of the program but bringing the same energy and winning spirit back to a series that has helped shape the team’s winning legacy.

A two-day shakedown test at Thunderhill Raceway Park served as the grand introduction of a new era for K-PAX Racing, though the pleasantries were short-lived. Time continued to tick. They pushed forward. The team thereon returned home to its base at Sonoma Raceway for further testing, where it would also open the season the following week. The 2021 GT World Challenge America season was a new chapter for K-PAX Racing, but it was an extension of more than a decade of success in its history book. The team’s quest for a championship in its return stateside saw a remodel of the foundational pieces to its program, which proved to be one of its most defining years to date.

“It was great to have K-PAX Racing back in a familiar place, back in the USA and back with SRO World Challenge America,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “Having the season start at our home track of Sonoma Raceway was a great way to kick off the year and we did that in great fashion.”

Home again. It had been 10 years since the team’s first podium finish at Sonoma Raceway – a state-of-the-art circuit that has accounted for the second-most podiums of any course in team history. The pressure felt in the preceding two weeks served as motivation for K-PAX Racing to shine, as the team not only capitalized on its homecoming but also made Sonoma Raceway a track where it has seen the most podiums all-time since 2007.

The No. 3 driver pairing of Caldarelli and Pepper had shown instant chemistry in its relentlessness for wins, as it recorded a perfect multi-race event across the board. The two were at the top of the standings in both practice and qualifying sessions, starting both races from pole and ultimately finishing each race flag-to-flag on top. The No. 6 of Venturini and Lewis started the opener alongside its sister-car – both K-PAX Racing cars filling out the first row of the grid – and the team’s Huracán GT3 EVOs finished one-two in the opening rounds of series action.

“It is always nice to have instant success at the start of a program but it’s important to not let this go to your head,” Law said. “We knew we had a long way to go and had a lot to prove with the switch to the Lamborghini brand. We have such a great group of people in this organization, and we knew we could be successful given the right amount of time. But, I was very impressed with how quickly we got up to speed with the short timeframe we had at the start of the season.”

While a speedy start may sometimes suggest “beginner’s luck,” K-PAX Racing continued to reaffirm its strong 2021 program by stepping firmly atop the leaderboards and podium in the following rounds at Circuit of The Americas. The No. 3 earned its third consecutive win from pole in the opening round, with the No. 6 splitting victories with a late push for the victory in the finale. K-PAX Racing swept the first two events of the season – a feat that had yet to be accomplished in its history.

K-PAX Racing experienced its first true test at VIRginia International Raceway, where its crew worked tirelessly to overcome mechanical setbacks and on-track carnage. For the third consecutive event, the team put together another flag-to-flag winning performance in the opener – the No. 3 team’s fourth win from pole. The No. 6, which underwent extensive repairs leading into the race weekend, showed its resiliency by finishing runner-up in the finale. K-PAX Racing kept the streak alive: A podium in each of the first six rounds of 2021.

The halfway point of the season quickly approached, with K-PAX Racing at the top-spot across all leaderboards. Road America saw K-PAX Racing leverage a perfectly executed race strategy in the opener – feeling the pressure of narrow margins from its competitors – to yet another victory from pole. The No. 3 earned its fifth pole in the last four events despite intermittent thunderstorms varying track conditions throughout the weekend, challenging the team to constantly adapt its strategy and setup. K-PAX Racing pushed forward. The team collected four podiums at “America’s National Park of Speed” – at least two podiums in each of its last three appearances at the course since 2018.

“It is always a challenge when you have back-to-back weekends and to have damage that required the team to work long hours shows the strength of our program,” Law said. “Testing and practicing what to do in situations like this helped to keep everyone calm and focused and the results are proof of this.”

K-PAX Racing swept for the third time in 2021 at Watkins Glen International – it’s second event sweep there since 2018. That made eight total victories for the season, with seven by the No. 3 from pole. The team’s Huracán GT3 EVOs finished one-two for the fourth time of the season (Rounds 1, 2, 4) in the finale, extending the team’s lead in all three title runs by the Squadra Corse supported effort. The team was in prime position for the penultimate rounds of the season.

Clinched. K-PAX Racing and GT World Challenge America jointly made their first appearance back at the historic Sebring International Raceway since 2009. While Sebring shares a plethora of historic moments across multiple racing disciplines, the inked dried for the team as it wrote its name in the series’ history books. A sweep of the event – from pole in the opener – helped K-PAX Racing to its 10th win of the season, which not only tied a season-high (2018) in the category but also has been the most all-Pro victories the team has collected in a season. The team also swept the weekend for the fourth time in 2021 (Sonoma Raceway, Circuit of The Americas, Watkins Glen International).

“To come away with the three separate Championships – Driver, Team and Manufacturer – is an amazing accomplishment,” Law said. “It is hard enough to secure one let alone all three in our first season with Lamborghini. This is something we will always remember. I will also always remember the final part of the weekend at Sebring after we secured those Championships – toasting everyone on the team, the speeches by our crew, our team owner Jim Haughey and Chris Ward from Lamborghini.”

The No. 3 of Caldarelli and Pepper secured the team’s fifth Drivers’ Championship in its history and the team to its fourth Team Championship. Lamborghini also enjoyed a Manufacturers’ Championship in its first year with K-PAX Racing, as the team has helped four of its five manufacturers to series titles (Porsche, Volvo, McLaren). While the team accomplished what it sought to do in 2021, its maiden journey was not finished. K-PAX Racing had the additional goal of finishing both its Huracán GT3 EVOs one-two in the championship – a feat it had yet to accomplish.

K-PAX Racing turned to the “Racing Capital of the World” – a fitting final event of its championship season. Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw an expanded program for the second running of the Indy 8 Hour, which included additional support from Squadra Corse in the way of engineering and two factory drivers. Mirko Bortolotti joined the No. 3 line-up, which raced under the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli (IGTC) parameters for the event. Marco Mapelli shared the No. 6, and the goal for the final event was securing second in the GT World Challenge standings.

“Endurance events are a different type of race and take a different mindset compared to the sprint rounds. We had to make adjustments, brought in two additional drivers and additional crew support from Lamborghini,” Law said. “This went a long way in getting to know the people of Lamborghini Squadra Corse and strengthening our relationship with them.”

This season’s Indy 8 Hour saw the No. 3 challenge for the win, as it battled to the lead in the second-half of the race. It would ultimately finish third – its 24th track stateside where it has recorded a podium performance. The No. 6 simultaneously accomplished its goal of securing second in the GT World Challenge Championship with a 10th-place finish, third in class among series competitors. In four IGTC appearances in five seasons (2017, 2018, 2020), the team has collected five top-10 finishes and two podiums.

“The 2021 season is one to remember for so many reasons – the challenges we had and the accomplishments we achieved will be hard to duplicate,” Law said. “Going into the 2022 season with a better understanding of the cars, a strengthened relationship with Lamborghini and excitement for the challenges ahead, we can’t wait to get it started.”

DRIVER QUOTES

Andrea Caldarelli – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “When I started with K-PAX Racing, it was of course all new to me. I didn’t know the team prior, so the first few races helped me learn the team and make the relationships. I think the team, especially a brand-new team with Lamborghini, grew a lot from February to the final race. The entire team did a mega job learning about the cars and procedures, and it became clear to everybody – as you could see from our last couple of races and the results. The team showed a huge amount of professionalism, and all the people in the program were extremely competent and ready to deliver. The team adapted very quickly to the car, which is not easy because it is a sensitive car with every single change. I tried to bring all my knowledge to speed up this process, and we succeeded.

[RE: Driver Pairing] I didn’t know Jordan [Pepper] before, but I can definitely say – and as everyone can see – that we started a very solid relationship. We drive very well together, pushing each other but also with a lot of respect on and off the track. I really enjoyed working with him, and it made the team spirit a lot more positive and easier.

[RE: Key Moment] One of the most key moments was at Road America, where we had a very hard weekend. We struggled a lot with car setup and so on, but from there, we changed pace and started from zero for Watkins Glen International. I would say Road America wasn’t a positive experience because we kind of took a step back, but we were able to analyze what wasn’t going right. We reset, and it was a good decision as we earned four victories between Watkins Glen and Sebring. The first race at Sebring when we won the championship was a very positive, special memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Another was Indy – our first race together in IGTC and first podium for Lamborghini. It was a very hard weekend but at the same time, a very nice one.

I really have to give a big ‘Thank You’ to the team. Some people think it was an easy season for us, but for anyone in racing, there is never an easy season. We worked very hard to get the team up to speed as quick as possible, and everyone – from the crew to the engineers – did a very amazing job all year. There were ups and downs, but that’s just a part of the game. Generally, it was a very positive year for the team and for me.”

Jordan Pepper – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “Obviously knowing K-PAX Racing for a lot longer than the rest and already driving for the team in 2020, I knew that the team was ready for the exciting challenge of switching to Lamborghini and back into GT World Challenge America. However, to see how much we grew as a team this year to go from strength to strength was great.

[RE: Driver Pairing] I think a huge role in our success this year came from how well Andrea [Caldarelli] and myself gelled as a team. In this type of racing, respect goes a long way and contributes so much to the success of the team. Andrea and I gained huge respect for each other. We got along very well as friends off track as well, which just made it even that much greater.

[RE: Key Moment] The first win of 2021 was special, as we got a really dominant one-two as a team and I was just so proud to be a part of the team and to see what we were able to do so early on in the new program. It was something very special to me.

A key factor for our success was the willingness of every single member to learn and improve and just give it 110 percent each and every day. Everyone was packed full of knowledge and being able to extract that knowledge when it was needed, facing new challenges for all this year was key. As a team I think we managed to use each person’s experiences to help better our performances and keep growing as a team.

K-PAX Racing has become family to me, being a driver for them now over the last two seasons has been great. The 2020 season was a huge challenge for everyone, during a worldwide pandemic racing in Europe for a U.S. based team wasn’t easy, but I think the lessons learned against some of the toughest rivals in the world really helped the team grow and this definitely was seen in 2021 stateside. We had new challenges with the switch to Lamborghini, but I feel the team continued to impress and grow and I’m sure going into 2022, the team will have the time to understand and grow some more, making sure they ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

The 2021 season was a truly amazing year and one I’ll never forget. I’m super proud to share these amazing memories with the entire K-PAX Racing crew. Now onto an even better 2022.”

Giovanni Venturini – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “My first impression of K-PAX Racing is how impressed I was by their organization at the shop in Sonoma. They kept this kind of organization also during the whole season, so it was even more of a surprise. We showed it by winning everything. It was honestly not an easy process finding a way to mesh our knowledge about the car and the knowledge of the team about the tracks. At the beginning, we worked really hard to find the setup with the help of Lamborghini Squadra Corse, and I think we did our best. We showed everybody our hard work by winning the championship with a one-two finish on the drivers classification and clinched the team championship as well.

[RE: Driver Pairing] It was my first time with Corey [Lewis], but already from the first test in February we had a really good feeling, and now I can say we are a good friends.

[RE: Key Moment] There isn’t a key moment because in this sport every day is more or less a key moment, but obviously when our win at Circuit of The Americas was really nice. While the win was nice, you also have to look at our recoveries. For example, in Sebring and Watkins Glen. After some issues during qualifying, we always found the strength to come back into podium position. My key moments were never giving up.

I want to thank the entire team for all its hard work during the season. It was not easy for everybody but at the end we won together as a team – that’s important.”

Corey Lewis – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “Overall as a team, we accomplished everything we had set out at the beginning of the season. With any new program there is always a learning curve and K-PAX Racing hit the ground running with a strong pre-season testing program which set the tone for the year.

[RE: Driver Pairing] Working with Giovanni [Venturini] was great. We’ve known each other for many years through our relationship with Lamborghini Squadra Corse but never had the opportunity to drive together until this year. We have the same goals in mind and when it came to car balance and setups, we both enjoyed the same type of car which made things a lot easier when it came to fine tuning the car. I hope we can continue to work together in the future.

[RE: Key Moment] When I look back at the season we accomplished so much as a team in our rookie season. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut season, and I hope to continue for the 2022 season.

Moving forward, I hope we can continue what we started and keep our team winning ways for the 2022 season.”

About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 170 podiums, 69 wins, five Driver Championships, and four Team and 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 and 2020. K-PAX Racing debuted the 2021 season in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.

About Lamborghini Squadra Corse

Squadra Corse is the motorsport department of Automobili Lamborghini. Born in 2013 within the Research & Development department, Squadra Corse provides an integrated approach to driving experiences of the brand; from driving course programs with road vehicles to motorsport competitions, through the Lamborghini Super Trofeo or championships of the GT class.

Esperienza is the first step for those who are interested in the world of Lamborghini: Its aim is to share the thrill and emotions of the super sports cars from Sant’Agata Bolognese with fans and potential customers alike, by advanced driving course programs. Esperienza Dinamica is divided into five programs in order to face every type of surface: Corsa, Neve, Sabbia, Strada, Terra. Esperienza Accademia is the program dedicated to advanced drivers, offering driving course programs not only on the racetrack but also on ice in order to improve the driving skills of the pilots.

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo is an international motor racing series with drivers competing in identical Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVOs, the racing version of the production model, that features the same 5.2 l naturally aspirated V10 engine. Inaugurated in 2009, Super Trofeo hosts regional championships in Europe, Asia and North America and is divided in four categories: Pro, Pro-Am, Am and Lamborghini Cup bringing together passionate gentleman drivers and young professional pilots. At the end of each season, the teams and drivers of all regions compete against each other in the World Finals, the highlight of the season.

The most challenging tests are those which see Lamborghini’s Customer Racing Teams competing in the principal international GT championships driving the Huracán GT3. The GT3 differs from the Huracán Super Trofeo EVO through its more sophisticated aerodynamics, kinematic suspension control and other technical specifications respecting official FIA regulations. In 2017 the Huracán GT3 won the Blancpain GT Series; in 2018 and 2019 the Huracán GT3 completed a double victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in GTD Class. Lamborghini is the only company in the world to win both of the prestigious races, that are also known as 36 Hours of Florida, in two consecutive years. Another premiere in 2019: The GT3 won the Triple Crown of the Blancpain GT Series with the titles in the categories Overall, Endurance and Sprint. In 2020 Lamborghini celebrated third victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona with sensational one-two finish.

Both the Huracán Super Trofeo and the Huracán GT3 are constructed and built at the plant in Sant’Agata Bolognese on the same production line as the road vehicles. Specialized technicians of the Lamborghini Squadra Corse are present at every station along the line.

Moreover, Lamborghini Squadra Corse is trying to develop new talents in motor sports, for example through the Young Drivers Program (open for drivers under 26 that will compete in the Super Trofeo championship) and the GT3 Junior Program (for future GT drivers). Both the programs aim to offer young drivers the possibility to improve their driving skills helping them to take a career as professional pilots.

In 2018 Squadra Corse inaugurated its first One-Off, the SC18 Alston, followed by open-top SC20 in 2020. In the same year Squadra Corse unveiled Essenza SCV12 the track-only hypercar in a limited edition of 40 units, fitted with the most powerful V12 naturally aspirated engine ever developed by Lamborghini: over 830 hp.



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