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K-PAX Racing Makes Victorious Return to World Challenge Action on Opening Weekend of 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Season
A win, two podiums and five top-5 class finishes highlight the three-car team’s two-race opening weekend effort.
The reigning champions at K-PAX Racing returned to the Pirelli World Challenge victorious this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg for the opening rounds of the 2017 championship, earning McLaren GT its first win of the season. In GT, McLaren Factory Driver Alvaro Parente put on a clinic to take the first win of the season, while newcomer Bryan Sellers showed an impressive charge though the field in Race One to take a top five result in his PWC debut. In GTA, Mike Hedlund proved to be competitive, making his K-PAX Racing debut with a third place finish.
Following Friday’s qualifying session, track officials made surface changes to turn three, out of concern for the safety of the cars and drivers. The drivers ran the altered course for the first time under the pace car, running two laps before taking the green flag. Defending champion Alvaro Parente and his No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 started in third behind Pierre Kaffer, but took advantage when Kaffer overshot turn one. His move to take the lead came a lap later when race leader Daniel Mancinelli had a bad run out of turn three. Parente dove in, braked late, and passed on the outside to assume the race lead. From there, the Portuguese champion led the race, keeping the field in his review mirror.
While all eyes may have been at the front of the field, Bryan Sellers put on a commanding performance starting in 11th. Determined to prove himself in his Pirelli World Challenge debut, the sports car veteran launched his No. 6 McLaren 650S at the green flag, jumping up to sixth position in the opening laps. The battles intensified as the race continued, and Sellers slipped to seventh, biding his time while Patrick Long and Johnny O’Connell battled for position ahead of his McLaren. The pressure increased in the final laps, and when attraction struck a competitor, Sellers took advantage of the opportunity to snatch fifth position.
Mike Hedlund enjoyed a calmer race, starting fourth in the GTA class. Hedlund ran in mostly clean air for the 50-minute sprint, allowing him valuable learning time with his new car on the tight street course. He maintained position to the checker flag, finishing in a solid fourth place.
With the fastest laps in race one determining the starting positions for Race Two, Parente, Sellers, and Hedlund were poised to start second, fifth, and 18th overall. Hopes were high as the green flag waved for race two, a race which would prove to be character building for the defending champions. Parente grabbed the lead from Alex Riberas on the front straight. As he drove into the inside of turn one, the No. 9 McLaren slid wide, losing the lead and dropping back to the middle of the GT field, behind Bryan Sellers, who survived the cluster of cars charging into turn one to sit eighth. Determined to make up his lost ground, Parente passed Sellers, Adderly Fong, and Michael Cooper to claim fifth position by lap two. He got caught behind Alex Udell, but in in the final turn of lap four, he made the pass to take fourth position. Udell shuffled back through the field to land in front of Sellers, but on lap 15, Sellers passed the car to take sixth position to charge forward to get Cooper. The next lap, Hedlund made the pass on James Sofronas to take 13th position, placing himself on the provisional podium. With less than ten minutes left on the clock, the field went full course caution, with Parente and Sellers sitting fourth and sixth. The field went green with two laps to go, and each car in the field fought hard to take their final positions. Parente finished fourth, while slicing and dicing in the middle pack resulted in Sellers getting ping-ponged back to tenth place. Hedlund held his position to finish third, thus winning his first podium of the GTA season.
“We came into Race Two with high hopes,” said Program Manager Darren Law. “It was a tough fight, the cars were quick, the team was great, and everyone worked well together. We did not have the finish we wanted on day two, but Race One was still a great start to our season with Alvaro taking the win, and both Bryan and Mike also earning solid finishes. It was great to see Mike on the podium with a third place finish. We collected some strong points, and look forward to our West Coast swing.”
Round 3 of the Pirelli World Challenge takes place April 7-9 on the streets of Long Beach, California. Parente will be defending his 2016 win, after a penalty to race winner Johnny O’Connell awarded the K-PAX Racing driver the win. The 11-turn, 1.968 mile street course will play host to a variety of racing, turning the three day event into a festival of speed. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 4th)
What a tough race. I had a great start and managed to get in the lead on the front straight. I went right, and got in the dirty part of the track to defend my position from the inside. Instead of going into the turn, I ended up going straight. I had to recover, and that was a crazy fight, trying to get by those few cars. I got by, and went up to fourth. I used up too much of my tires in doing so, and the tires were too far used up by the time I got behind the Ferrari. I put a lot of pressure on him, but just could not make the pass. It was a positive weekend, and we’ll take the points. We’ll come back strong and we look forward to the next race.
Bryan Sellers – No. 6 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 10th)
It is a frustrating day. We had a pretty good race car. You hate days that do not end the way they are supposed to. The crew does a great job, works hard, and you get victimized by another car. It is really a shame. At the end of the day, you hate bringing home a race car that is beaten up. I feel bad that we could not get a big result, and we took a hit in the points early. We’ll reload and come back to the next one with a better, cleaner result.
Mike Hedlund (GTA Class) – No. 98 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 3rd)
It was a really good race for our McLaren. We made a lot of changes yesterday, so to be safe today, it took me a little bit of time to really get going. It already looked like some good points, but I kept pushing, got lucky and made a couple passes. We got a good result, and I’m happy we can start the season on a positive note. Off to Long Beach.
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 93 podiums, 37 wins and four driver championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In 2014, K-PAX Racing expanded its relationship with McLaren GT, bringing two new 2015 McLaren 650S GT3 race cars into competition. The renewed effort kept K-PAX Racing at the forefront of competition, becoming a serious championship contender in the seasons to follow. In 2016, the team expanded to three full season McLaren 650S GT3 race cars, and clinched the Pirelli World Challenge Team, Driver, and Manufacturer Championships.
About McLaren GT
McLaren has been a pioneer and setting benchmarks on the tracks around the world for 50 years, and the latest range of GT racing models based on the road-going McLaren Automotive range is no different. McLaren GT was established in 2011 to develop, build and support all GT race activities. Based in Woking, Surrey at the former home of McLaren Racing, the company is responsible for the design, development and production of the 650S GT3, 570S GT4, and 650S and 570S Sprint models.
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