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K-PAX Racing Victorious in SRO E-Sport GT Series Debut
Team Driver Jordan Pepper capitalizes to cross the checkers first in “Pro” class at Silverstone
In less than a one-month span, K-PAX Racing officially entered the sim racing arena with the same ambition as it is known for across paddocks worldwide – to win races. Mirroring the same commitment to excellence virtually, the team joined with SIRIO E-Sports and together, won the opening round of the 2020 SRO E-Sport GT Series Championship at Silverstone.
“What a mega job by the whole K-PAX Racing and SIRIO eSports team,” Race-winner Jordan Pepper said. “It was unreal. We didn’t expect to win, and we were hoping for at least a Top-10 result. To win was beyond what we anticipated, but it shows how strong we are.”
K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports Strong in Debut
The first of five rounds in Assetto Corsa Competizione was highlighted by two one-hour races – the “Pro” and “Silver” classes competing separately on the high-speed circuit. Team veteran Andy Soucek and Pepper, a Bentley factory driver, represented the team in the Pro class, which is reserved for real-world drivers. The Silver class became the home of three newcomers to the K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports effort – proven sim racers Philippe Simard, Tariq Gamil and Alberto Garcia.
The team’s extensive preparation in such short time shined in qualifying as three of the five team drivers across both classes secured a Top-10 or better start. Pepper, who is experienced in sim racing, headlined the Pro class for the team’s driving core by qualifying 6th while Soucek was set to start 34th on a grid of more than 45 contestants. Garcia followed up the Pro drivers’ strong performances by qualifying 7th, with Simard close behind (10th) and Gamil rounding-out the line-up (24th) of a grid just as large.
The Pro class had first dibs of the circuit for 60-minutes of fierce series action, but before the green flag waved the field across the front-straightaway, technical issues with a Top-5 competitor bumped the team’s No. 3 (Pepper) and No. 9 (Soucek) Bentley Continental GT3s up into better starting positions. Pepper made a jump at the start from fifth, gaining two positions in the opening lap to podium position.
The defining moment of the race took place around the 10-minute mark, where the two lead-cars made contact – making a clear path for Pepper to take the lead. Pepper remained composed for the rest of his 50-minute campaign, gradually extending his lead until the finish. The No. 3, which also led the most laps of the 31-lap contest, went on to pick up the team’s first-ever sim victory by more than a seven-second margin. Soucek, who has played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between virtual and real-world racing for the team, placed 39th.
“The race itself got off to a mega start,” Pepper said. “I got up to third on the opening lap, and then I just sat behind the McLarens because they looked too racey for my liking. I just kept a small distance and saved the tires. It paid off – they got tangled and I managed to slip through and create a gap. I set a nice race pace and just controlled the gap. I brought it home, and I’m super happy about that.”
Garcia showcased his sim prowess in the Silver class, contending for a place in the Top-5 for the duration of the race — after earning his opportunity to represent K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports in the championship less than two weeks ago at Silverstone. In the closing laps, Garcia was on the heels of a podium finish, gaining considerably in the course’s fast corners. He would go on to place fourth, giving K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports a Top-5 showing in both classes. Simard rounded out the field’s Top-10, while Gamil continued to climb from 17th before losing ground from fuel.
Ben Barnicoat, who raced under the K-PAX Racing banner prior to the team’s shift to Bentley in 2018, finished runner-up in the Pro race.
K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports will return to action for the iconic 24 Hours of Spa (Belgium) on May 10th.
Under the Lights in France
K-PAX Racing remained across the pond for the third round of SRO America GT Rivals action, where real-world team drivers Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne debuted the team’s Union Jack livery. The No. 8 (Cosmo) and No. 9 (Byrne) Bentley Continental GT3s battled under sunset race conditions at Circuit Paul Ricard, where they continued to showcase their improving skills behind a simulator.
The third round of Assetto Corsa Competizione play featured Paul Ricard’s 15-turn, 5.8-kilometer format, and the realistic evening settings made for fast-action across the course. Cosmo qualified 16th and Byrne 25th in the 20-minute round, and the two Continental GT3s were able to steer clear of any trouble at the drop of the green flag. Byrne especially got the jump at the start, covering major ground within the opening lap.
“I had a great start and jumped a lot of spots,” said Byrne, who made it up to 14th. “I nailed the green light when no one else seemed to. There were like two or three groups of collisions, and I was able to get through all of them. We worked our way up, and there was really great racing.”
The team’s pair of Continental GT3s were able to climb through the field, and within the first 10 minutes of action, met in 13th and 14th position. Cosmo, who has consistently competed on the cusp of the Top-10 in the first three rounds, suffered front-end damage from contact which set the No. 8 car back. Byrne continued to battle the field mid-pack in the No. 9 into the low-visibility night settings, where he would also fall victim to on-track contact.
Byrne recovered and would hold steady in 18th for the final 20 minutes of the race, while Cosmo placed 23rd. K-PAX Racing will take on Spa on May 3rd.
Andy Soucek (PRO) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 39th) – “I am extremely proud and happy for what we’ve achieved in our first race as an e-sports team. A big ‘thanks’ to K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports for an amazing performance. We put this program together in such a short time, and we worked so hard. So, winning the PRO class with Jordan and finishing fourth and tenth in the SILVER class is just unreal.
My result is a bit frustrating. I was starting in the back because I did not have a good quali. Unfortunately, I got rammed by a car that spun and crashed with another car. That spun me and I had damage from that incident, which forced me to retire. I tried to stay on-track for the entire race but the car wouldn’t turn. The damage was too much, so I had to pit. I think I could have had a great pace in the race because the car was really good. But, I’m happy with everyone else’s job.”
Jordan Pepper (PRO) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “Credit to Philippe, Tariq and Alberto who helped with the setup and support, and to Emilio [De Villota] for putting a solid organization together with K-PAX Racing. It made it easy for me to jump in relatively late and get up to speed quickly. It was amazing to win the first official SRO E-Sport GT Series race amongst all real drivers. I would have loved for it to happen in real-life, but while we’re in this situation we need to make the best of it. I’m super happy, and I couldn’t ask for more. Now to take on Spa with 25-kilograms.”
Philippe Simard (SILVER) – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 10th) – “It was a good race. We knew the McLarens were going to be quick, but we had the pace in a few places to compete outside the podium. Alberto did a great job. For me, I was running in the pack, and I felt strong. I got turned around in the hairpin from behind, so it was difficult to stay with the pack. I managed to get back at the end, but there was no progress to be made at that point.
Working with Andy and Jordan has been amazing, and the program we have in place is simply amazing. The work that we did resulted in a win and working with real-world drivers is quite the experience. I’ve been just trying to get them up to speed [with the sim world], though Jordan has some experience transitioning from iRacing to Assetto Corsa Competizione. It is difficult to switch sims, so we’re helping with that and the technical side of things. Andy hadn’t even sim raced since a month ago, so we’ve been just trying to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. But we have a strong team and I look forward to the next event.”
Tariq Gamil (SILVER) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 37th) – “I’m quite disappointed with the end, running out of fuel with a half of a lap to go. But what happened, happened and now we know better for the next race. I was a little bit concerned with my qualifying position at the beginning, because I was worried about getting caught up in incidents – ideally you’d like to qualify at the front or at the back, and I was exactly in the middle. I was trying to be more strategic and smart in the beginning, and then once the field started to break up, start really pushing and taking risks. There were a lot of great battles with our cars, and the racing was great. It was intense, but fair racing.
There was a point where I was sandwiched between four Bentleys, and it was an interesting situation. I tried to keep it cool and consistent, pressuring the cars ahead to make a mistake. I was just capitalizing on those situations as best as I could.
As a team, we work really well. We’ll have our strengths and weaknesses, but we can improve from each other. Each evening, we had a structured plan to prepare for this race – even as far as telemetry – where we’d offer information to help us all get better. All these contributed to help make the team strong.”
Alberto Garcia (SILVER) – No. 6 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 4th) – “I’m very happy with how the race went. Everything went quite well. We have scored points and we were the first Bentley, which shows how strong we can be in this series. I think we have the potential to fight for the championship, although we will have to go step-by-step. I am also very excited because my family and friends saw the race and were really excited about it. Thank you for trusting me, and I am very grateful for this opportunity that K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports has given me.”
Guy Cosmo – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 23rd) – “Things were looking up this time, and that we’re getting a handle on the performance aspect. Qualifying was a bit disappointing again, and the pace we had just wasn’t enough. The first lap, I tried to keep it clean and survived the first lap. I was still getting light bumps from everywhere, so there still seems to be a severe issue with special awareness with the people I qualified around. At the very end of the first lap into the last corner, the guy went super-wide and of course we came together at the apex. That spun me around and then got hit on by another car. That busted-up my front end, and for the rest of the race I had a severely damaged front bumper and splitter. It wouldn’t turn and it was down on straight-line speed.
I had a great battle with Patrick, and that was a lot of fun to go wheel-to-wheel with my real-life K-PAX Racing teammate. I was fixing for a 19th – 20th place finish, but couldn’t make it back around.”
Patrick Byrne – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 18th) – “In one of the high-speed, loaded-right corners I got spun. For some reason, we both got a drive-through penalty even though I didn’t see him. It also damaged the rear, and I had to climb my way up. Every time I took a right-hand turn, I had the worst vibration in the wheel. I just ran with it, and I had a great fight with Cosmo during the race. But it just wasn’t enough to get up-front. I’m looking forward to Spa, and we’ll see how it goes there.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 148 podiums, 59 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, Paul Williams 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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