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K-PAX Racing Leads the Way to Double Podium
Team Helps Bentley Break Ground in New Continental GT3
K-PAX Racing captured its first Blancpain GT World Challenge America victory Saturday, dominating the field to a one-two finish in the opening round at Circuit of The Americas. Reminiscent to last year’s stop, the team’s driver pairing of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet took top-honors – this time in the series’ Pro Class. Álvaro Parente and Andy Soucek finished runner-up from pole position.
“This is an unbelievable way to start our season,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “I’m super happy for Rodrigo and Max to get the first win. This is especially good for Rodrigo because he had his first win here last year as well. We’re really proud of the team. The pit-stops were properly executed, the guys drove well, the team performed well, and the engineering was right.”
“On top of all that, we have to thank Bentley for the production of this second-generation Continental GT3. It has shown its ability this weekend, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Bentley shared the team’s on-track success, as it broke new ground with its second-generation Continental GT3. Soucek, co-driver of the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, earned pole position in qualifying by recording a 2:11.491 – the manufacturer’s first pole worldwide for its second-generation model. The new Continental GT3 also took its maiden win with Baptista and Soulet behind the wheel of the team’s No. 3 car.
“We are very proud that we are the first win for Bentley’s second-generation model worldwide, and that we are also the first pole position in qualifying,” Law said. “No one can take that away from us, and again, we are very proud to have accomplished this for Bentley.”
K-PAX Racing’s two Continental GT3s stood front-and-center on the grid for the season-opener, locking out the front row. Within the first 10 minutes of the 90-minute race, red flag conditions temporarily delayed on-track action. During the restart, the No. 9 of Soucek began to extend its lead, while the No. 3 found itself in a fierce battle with third-position.
Baptista, who started the race in the No. 3, battled the Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Daniel Morad through the 3.4-mile course, eventually securing second the next lap. Baptista said following the restart, tires became a factor.
“On the first lap [following the restart], Morad seemed to have a little bit more heat than me,” Baptista said. “He dove inside me about three or four times, and I had to find a way to pass him again because I knew after a lap, I would be faster than him.”
“It was the heat of the tires at first. I couldn’t brake late and fight with him on the braking. So, after the restart, I pushed for a few laps to try to make a gap, and then I was just managing the tires. Had I pushed for a couple more laps, it would have been bad. So, we just need to manage our tires moving forward with this new race format.”
Soucek led every lap heading into the mandatory driver change, when he handed the wheel off to Parente. However in the pit cycle, the No. 3 closed the gap, taking sole possession of the lead. Soulet, who drove the final stint for the No. 3, built upon his lead for the final 40 minutes of the race.
While the K-PAX Racing Continental GT3s finished the race only separated by less than a five-second margin, Soulet bested the rest of the field by nearly 40 seconds. K-PAX Racing led every lap in the 90-minute race.
“We didn’t run into traffic and we weren’t fighting, and that’s how we made the gap,” Soulet said. “For me, this [win] is special. I helped develop this car quite a bit before last season. I didn’t design the car, but I did a lot of work on the car so it’s kind of my baby as well. To have the first win with this car is very important – especially with Rodrigo.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) – “It was a good race, and I’m very happy for the team on getting the one-two finish. The testing we’ve done has been very productive, and it showed compared to a lot of other cars. It was almost perfect, and it would have been had the result been the other way around but that was not the case. But again, I’m very happy for the team, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) – “It’s great to have a first and second place finish for the team – and the first win for the new Continental GT3. I would have wished it was the other way around, but it’s still great that we had both Bentleys up there.
I was very happy with my pole position this morning, and I was happy with my first stint during the race. I gave Álvaro the car in the lead but unfortunately, he had traffic on his out-lap, which costed us two seconds. Plus, the other car over-cut us, making their stop one lap later. Our tires were still cold by the time Álvaro went out.
All-in-all, it wasn’t the best race because we should have kept first-place, but it was not a disaster. We still gained 18 points for the championship so we’re in a good position, and the car feels good. We’re happy. Of course, you always want to win. But, if there is anyone else who wins this race, it’s better if it’s your teammate and not someone else. So, I am happy for Bentley and especially for K-PAX Racing. We’ll try to make the most out of tomorrow’s race.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “This season has started off well – now with the new car, and it’s getting better. I hope to win again tomorrow and to win both races like we had at Watkins Glen International last season. The only difficult thing today was getting heat on the tires. But after that, the car was good.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “The result today has proven that Rodrigo [Baptista] is growing up in a way that he could be a factory driver. He’s always quick and always shows the pace and today, he again proved why he should be in the car.
We’re very happy to have won this race, especially because it’s the first win of the second-generation Continental GT3. That’s important, and I think we proved that the car is very fast and reliable.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 127 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