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K-PAX Racing, No. 9 Team Find Redemption at VIR
Team Earns Second Win of 2019
The No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Álvaro Parente and Andy Soucek earned its first victory of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge America season Saturday, claiming the third round at VIRginia International Raceway by more than a three-second margin. The pair, who now have sole possession of the championship lead, collected their third-straight podium of the year over two events.
“We’re really proud of the program,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “As we’ve said in the past, the cars, the teams and the drivers all did a great job, and it’s really our hard-work that’s paid off — all the preparation and testing we’ve done. It was a great run for the No. 9 — especially after last year — and it’s nice to see Álvaro and Andy on the podium. It’s great for points.”
The team, which privately tested at the famed road course earlier in the month, consistently performed at the top of the series’ Pro class leading into the event opener. The second-generation Bentley Continental GT3 made its official track debut during Friday’s practice sessions, where the new model shined through the course’s high-speed sectors. Both of K-PAX Racing’s cars finished at the top of the charts in the first session – the No. 9 team recording the fastest time of a 1:44.369 and the No. 3 crossing the line less than two-tenths of a second off the mark.
K-PAX Racing continued its strong performance into Saturday’s qualifying, where both cars again recorded times at the top of the 17-car field. Of the six cars in the Pro class, Parente captured pole with a time of 1:43.614, and the No. 3 of Rodrigo Baptista was third-quickest with a 1:43.769. The pole was the team’s second in two-straight events; K-PAX Racing earned Bentley’s first pole worldwide for its second-generation model in the series-opener in March.
Soucek and Max Soulet followed-up their teammates with equally as impressive performances – once again capturing pole position for the event finale. While Parente earned his first pole of the season, Soucek was awarded his second. Like Law, Parente attributes the team’s successes to preparation, saying how well the team is “working together in preparing the car exactly how we want it for qualifying.”
The No. 9 and 3 teams started first and third on the grid respectively and at the drop of the green flag, both cars maintained their positions. While the No. 9 car felt pressure from the No. 58 Wright Motorsports car of Patrick Long, Baptista was pushing to make it a three-way battle. However, in an effort to close the gap, Baptista veered off the course and prematurely ended the race for the No. 3 team.
“Unfortunately, the No. 3 car didn’t have the run that we would have liked,” Law said. “I think we could have had both of them on the podium, but there is always tomorrow. The damage on the No. 3 car is really just superficial and will need body work. There was no structural damage, so we’ll be ready to go first thing in the morning.”
At the half-way point, the No. 9 team strategically pit to avoid being undercut by the other cars. The team made a quick stop, and Soucek was able to secure the top-spot with 40 minutes remaining on the clock. Similar to the car’s first stint, the No. 58 of Scott Hargrove contested for the lead following a slight miscue by Soucek – at times closing the gap to less than four-tenths of a second.
“We had a great pit strategy, and we weren’t undercut by our rivals,” Soucek said. “We ended up having a good gap from Hargrove, but unfortunately I made a small mistake going wide at the Oak Tree, and I went off the track a little bit. I was on the grass and lost a couple of seconds, and my margin was gone.”
“From there I told myself to wait until the tires break, and after that I could pull a bit of a gap. He started to close again, and I saw he was really pushing in that corner. I always saw him in my mirror, and I thought he was diving in a little too much. At some point, he made a mistake and disappeared from my mirror, and at that time it was great because I was suffering from the pressure.”
In the closing minutes of the 90-minute race, Hargrove also veered off the track – relieving Soucek of the pressure he endured for the majority of his stint. Soucek had favorable track position following the full-course yellow and on the restart, was able to maintain a comfortable cushion from the field until the checkered flag.
The victory not only marks the first victory for Parente and Soucek as a driver pairing, but it is also Soucek’s first win on American soil. Both of them feel that one of the biggest contributors to their early-season successes is the arrival of the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3.
“What a great weekend so far,” Parente said. “We both ended up on pole in both our qualifying groups, and now we got the race win. After such a complicated season last year — with all the issues and everything — it’s great to start a season like this. We’re a lot more comfortable with this second-generation car, and we feel that we are a lot more competitive with it.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “The start was all right. Patrick [Long] was pressuring quite a bit. He seemed to come up to speed in the early laps quicker than us. Then I started to improve and make a little bit of a gap. We lost a little bit early-on, then we started gaining and maintaining. A big congratulations to the team for a great pit-stop. Everything was smooth, and we left on-time. Andy is driving really well — he’s very quick. I’m really happy we got this win. Hopefully there is more to come.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “We had a great pit strategy, and we weren’t undercut by our rivals. We ended up having a good gap from [Scott] Hargrove, but unfortunately, I made a small mistake going wide at the Oak Tree, and I went off the track a little bit. I was on the grass and lost a couple of seconds, and my margin was gone. From there I told myself to wait until the tires break, and after that I could pull a bit of a gap. He started to close again, and I saw he was really pushing in that corner. I always saw him in my mirror, and I thought he was diving in a little too much. At some point, he made a mistake and disappeared from my mirror, and at that time it was great because I was suffering from the pressure. From there, I just maintained the 18-second gap from second until the full-course yellow. I knew I had two lapped cars in-between me, so I was quite relaxed on the restart. A lapped car tried to overtake me, which would have been awkward, but I pulled a gap and that was it. It’s our first win this year and it took one year and two races for it to happen, so happy days. We need to keep the momentum.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC) – “There’s not much to say. We had a great car, and I was just pushing to try to catch the other cars ahead of me. The mistake took us out of the race but it’s racing, and anything can happen. Hopefully, we have a good race tomorrow.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC) – “Tomorrow will be challenging because the other cars have picked up the pace, but today we had a mistake. We try to win races, and what happened today can happen. Rodrigo was pushing to catch the No. 9 and Patrick Long, and it’s just the way it is. We just have to focus on the next one and move on.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 129 podiums, 55 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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Circuit of The Americas