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K-PAX Racing to Defend Track Title at Long Beach
On first impression, fans of the Pirelli World Challenge Series will group Alvaro Parente and Bryan Sellers under the K-PAX Racing banner. However, the two McLaren GT drivers share a stronger connection in their racing careers, one deeper than their team affiliation.
Both Parente and Sellers will pilot two of the three cars in the series’ GT class. Parente returns to K-PAX having been a key component in sweeping the 2016 season. The team enjoyed the spoils of creating a record campaign – 12 podium finishes at 11 tracks – winning a team and manufacturer championship. Parente wore the individual crown at the end of the season, and in 2017 will attempt to double on the team’s success with two new teammates. Sellers is one of them.
“It’s a long championship with a lot of points at stake,” Parente said. “You have to be consistent throughout [all the races] – everywhere. You need to grab those podiums and especially those wins. There is a big point difference.”
At the team’s testing session in late-March at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), the two not only donned an orange-accented OMP K-PAX Racing fire suit, but also a smile in each other’s presence. Their lust for high-adrenaline racing was not by happenstance but generational. Their sportscar racing stardom was not instant but rather, they built their careers from go-karting at an early age.
Parente, hailing from Porto, Portugal, comes from a racing family. His father, Alvaro Sr., bought him a go-kart when he was four years-old. Though it took him three years to get a handle on the kart enough to start competing, Parente won the European Junior Championship in 1998 – a precursor to his success in full-bodied cars. He debuted in auto racing in 2001 at 16 years-old.
“My whole family was racing all the time,” Parente said. “I wanted to do the same thing my uncles, my dad and my grandfather did. It’s a bit of a family tradition. They have followed my career through Europe and now the United States.”
For Sellers, one Christmas morning particularly brought a joy he still feels to this day. Filled with excitement, the then nine-year-old Sellers raced to the Christmas tree to find a go-kart waiting for him beneath it. Like Parente, Sellers wanted to race like his uncles and his father had in their careers. While their worlds were not yet connected, the Dayton, Ohio native also won a championship in 1998 – the World Karting Association National Championship title. He too eventually found himself in open-wheeled racing before extending his career into sportscar racing.
“I didn’t know what to expect my first season,” Sellers said. “But after I did it, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the camaraderie of it and the whole aspect of teamwork. For me, I’ve never looked back or regretted it once. It was the right move for me. [A career] should be evolutionary. Every year should be different that you’re learning and working on. Like this year, coming up against Alvaro. It’s an eye-opener with how much you need to dig deep in different situations to improve. Hopefully I can push him a little more as the season goes.”
Combined, Parente and Sellers bring nearly 40 years of racing experience to the program. Even though the stars align late in the careers of both these racers – who are in their 30s – their relationship is like one that has stood the test of time. The two not only worked closely together while determining the next setup at VIR, but they also joked like longtime friends while doing it.
“We [all] seem to like the same kind of food which is important at the end of the day,” joked Sellers about his new team (Parente, Mike Hedlund). “It’s always difficult no matter what side of the fence you’re on. Let’s say Alvaro had been here already and two new guys comes into a program that he’s comfortable in, or let’s say two new guys who come into a program they are not comfortable in. It could go two ways: you can get along or there can be a lot of tension and stress. From my side, it has worked very well. We seemed to get along right away.”
Hedlund, who is competing in the series’ GTA class, placed on the podium in the team’s first series stop in early-March at St. Petersburg. With the third-place finish, he currently is in the title hunt. Parente and Hedlund are inside the top-three of both their respective classes. Sellers is one position shy of being within the top-five in points.
K-PAX Racing will compete in the “Roar by the Shore” from April 7-9 on the Streets of Long Beach. Parente not only battled side-by-side for the lead for the full 50-minutes last season, but he also was victorious in his efforts. Parente also owns the track record in the GT class, recording a 1:18.947 / 89.741 mph in qualifying in 2016.
For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S – “It’s a track I really like. I really love the whole weekend. The environment is fantastic, and I just love the layout of the track very much. It’ll be interesting. It was great for us last season and great for our car. So, I’m really looking forward to it. I am very motivated, and my fingers are crossed that we’ll be spot-on with the setup on the car. I love street tracks.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 6 McLaren 650S – “There’s always a lot of people, and there is always good racing. It’s a pretty good environment, so I’m excited to get there. By the looks of it, the McLaren has been strong on street courses in the past. Alvaro won here last season, so we’ll for sure roll in with a good setup on the car – to be where we need to be. For me, St. Petersburg did not work out well for me. I’m looking forward to getting back and trying again.”
Mike Hedlund – No. 98 McLaren 650S – “I can’t wait to get back to Long Beach! The K-PAX team has had excellent results there in the past with the McLaren 650S GT3, so I know the car will be on point. The weather is looking a little dicey so that might add a little bit more strategy for the weekend, but the racing is always a lot of fun and is a great show for the massive amounts of fans that come every year. With only a single race for the weekend it’s essential that we collect points for the championship, but in a street race you never know what’ll happen.”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 95 podiums, 38 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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