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- RT @gtworldcham: In the ultra competitive Pro class it was back-to-back championships for @KPAXracing and @andreacalda. But how did they…
K-PAX Racing On-Top After Abbreviated Third Round
Mother Nature claims event opener early with K-PAX Racing leading the field; Earns third consecutive win to start 2021 championship campaign
K-PAX Racing entered the third and fourth rounds of Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS in prime position – at the top of the championship rankings. While still early in the season, the team brought its momentum to Circuit of The Americas (COTA), where it extended its streak to a third consecutive victory from pole.
The team’s two-car Lamborghini Squadra Corse Huracán GT3 EVO effort carried a marginal lead into the second event of the championship – the No. 3 of Jordan Pepper and Andrea Caldarelli leading with 50 points, and the sister No. 6 car of Giovanni Venturini and Corey Lewis second with 36 points. The one-two finishes by K-PAX Racing at Sonoma created a nine-point spread in the points standings from third, as well as made a clear indicator that the team may be a true championship contender for multiple championships in its return stateside.
The strong performance from the team’s No. 3 Huracán GT3 EVOs gives K-PAX Racing its third-straight victory. The team now has five podium performances in the first three races of the season – the team’s most prolific start in its history. Having won from pole in each race keeps a virtually perfect start to the season intact through three rounds.
“That whole program has ran very well,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “The cars ran well, so we look forward to tomorrow and what the rest of the season holds. We had a great race with the No. 3 car, and within the first few laps took the lead and led the whole way through. It is really unfortunate for the No. 6, because we were running second. They could not push the car with the ABS issue, but we found the problem and will get it back together for tomorrow.”
Mother Nature had blanketed clouds over the 12-turn, 3.427-mile course with scattered showers through the week’s on-track sessions, making the team’s seemingly clear path so far this season a little hazier. An additional variable was the lack of track-time – if at all – for the K-PAX Racing driver line-up, as three of the four drivers had not driven at COTA in their careers. Lewis, the lone American driver on the roster, had spent additional time at the track prior to race weekend. His knowledge coupled with the team’s extensive experience at the Texas circuit proved to keep K-PAX Racing on a steady track.
“Me being the only driver stateside, I have a lot more laps around the tracks we’re going to,” Lewis said. “Coming into COTA, I tried to give them as much information as I could – between track references, videos from other cars I’ve tested with here recently and any other sort of track knowledge that would help us succeed. It is my duty, and this is a team deal. We are all top-notch competitors so after a handful of laps, everyone got a grip on it. It didn’t take long. But I look forward to being that ‘jumpstart’ for the boys for the remainder of the year.”
K-PAX Racing was quick to adjust, as it has through the 2021 transition of its program, earning pole for the event-opener. Pepper rebounded in his qualifying stint from a right-rear puncture on a drying COTA circuit, rifling off the fastest lap of the session late with a 2:10.455 – getting the best of teammate Venturini by about four-tenths of a second. Venturini recorded a 2:10.868, giving the team the front row of the grid in the first two event openers of the season. Caldarelli recorded a second-best 2:07.163 for the Pro class (8th overall), and Lewis crossed the line third in class with a 2:07.391 (9th overall) for the finale.
“We were unlucky with the puncture, but we were lucky that it happened in the last corner and made it to pit-lane,” Pepper said. “I really had one lap [after repairing the car], and it was mega. It wasn’t the best lap I’ve ever done, but I at least made it happen. I knew the target time, and that I had to put everything into the final sector because there was a lot of traffic in the middle. I just went for it.”
Mother Nature was forgiving during qualifying, and the GT3 field was only welcomed by a spritz of rain for 90 minutes of action. Pepper and Venturini took first dibs behind the wheel of the No. 3 and No. 6, and at the start of the race both were challenged down the 133-foot incline to the first turn. Pepper was able to recover the lead at the tail-end of the first lap with some tricky maneuvering, eventually finding space to complete the pass and open a four-second gap. Venturini successfully reclaimed his starting spot after an intense exchange in the first 15 minutes.
While Venturini continued to defend second, Pepper used the clean air ahead of him to pull away to about a 10-second lead and nearly doubled it close to the mid-way point. Venturini eventually built about a two-second cushion from third heading into the mandatory pit-stop.
A band of heavy rain drastically changed the track conditions over to wet during the pit window, making for slick conditions. The conditions prompted K-PAX Racing to quickly adjust its pit strategy, opting for Pirelli PZero wets. Caldarelli replaced Pepper behind the wheel for the final half of the race – reentering the field in the lead. Lewis took control of the wheel for Venturini, starting his stint in fourth.
“That was an interesting race,” Law said. “It started dry and went wet, and we were watching the radar in pit-lane closely. But the real call there is what the drivers feel, and they have to make that judgement heading into pit-lane. They called ‘wet,’ and it was the right call. There were some other competitors on slicks, who had to bring it in again.”
While Caldarelli continued to set a safe pace at the front of the field in the No. 3, Lewis battled ABS (anti-lock braking system) issues which significantly hindered the performance of the No. 6 under wet conditions. The race was called prematurely with about 10 minutes remaining due to lightning in the area, giving the No. 3 the nod and the No. 6 a fourth-place finish (sixth overall). Mirroring Caldarelli from the previous rounds at Sonoma, Pepper was awarded CrowdStrike Fastest Lap with a 2:08.020.
K-PAX Racing returns to action Sunday, May 2 for the event finale at Circuit of The Americas. For more information, including coverage and event timetable, visit gt-world-challenge-america.com.
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “It was a really last-minute call to change the tires [to wets] – one-minute before the pit-stop. Luckily, it was a good call. After that, it was really just surviving the bad conditions. I’ve never drove here in the wet before, so it was more discovering how to react. I think we’re pretty consistent – another win.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “At the start I did what I could, but that’s two in a row where I can’t get to Turn 1 first from pole. But we recovered and settled into a good rhythm. It was tricky with the rain coming down, because we weren’t sure what to expect. We opened up a good gap – I got to about 15 seconds and just played backwards-and-forwards. I opened up that gap to almost 20 seconds, and then the rain came down. Andrea [Caldarelli] had the difficult bit, but I can’t thank everyone enough – that’s three-for-three.”
Giovanni Venturini – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th) – “I enjoyed the battle with the BMW. He (Michael Dinan) had the engine in the straights, but at the end I overtook him. Then we had the ABS failure, but we managed to get points for the championship and bring the car home. We have a very strong car [this weekend], but sometimes luck just isn’t on your side. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
Corey Lewis – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th) – “I think we started off quite strong and had hard battles the whole way through – Giovanni [Venturini] and Jordan [Pepper] with the BMW early-on. We were able to break away a little and get into a rhythm, creating a little bit of gap to the cars behind us. Right before the pit-stop, we ended up losing ABS while track conditions were still somewhat dry. By the time I got in, Mother Nature came down and dumped water on us. Sports cars without ABS in the rain is a lot tougher of a challenge than I ever expected, but the car is in one piece. We just wanted to salvage what we could for the championship, and then bounce back tomorrow.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 154 podiums, 62 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 and 2020. K-PAX Racing will debut 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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