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Making Waves Across Continents: Pepper to Make K-PAX Racing Debut in 2020
The Pepper family carries a strong bloodline of pure octane, fueled by generations of racers and a burning passion to compete at the highest level. Jordan Pepper, a fourth-generation racer hailing from Gauteng, South Africa, has followed his family lineage into racing and has since created a name for himself as one of the current and select South Africans to break into the professional ranks behind the wheel.
Pepper’s great-grandfather started the trend, casually racing cars into World War II in Europe before making the move to South Africa. The next two generations saw the Pepper family racing anything from two to four wheels across South Africa – at one point under heavy sanctions during the apartheid era. Europe always seemed to be the eventual goal in a long-line of racing heritage for the Peppers, and the 23-year-old has since seized the opportunity as a young-talent, rising through the GT3 ranks in multiple series across the globe. Pepper will share the seat of the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 in the upcoming 2020 GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup season.
“My mom maybe made the mistake of taking me to a local track about 30 minutes from home, Zwartkops Raceway, at two-weeks old,” said Pepper, reminiscing on the moment he was first introduced into racing. “We watched my dad race then, and since I’ve just grown up in the sport.”
“I don’t have that story where I was hooked at 12 or 13 years-old. I was privileged enough that when I could race, I did. Racing has always been my everything from the time I was born, and I grew up watching all types of racing on television with my dad. I just remember enjoying those moments with my dad, so the moment I turned four years-old, my dad put me in a go-kart, and I started racing at five. As far back as I could remember, I just looked forward to the day I could finally race.”
Pepper’s father was a professional motocross racer until a race-related injury forced him to consider all his options in his return to motorsports – eventually electing to transition into cars. As a privateer in the South African racing scene, he started and funded his own multi-championship winning professional team – all while Pepper and his sister began karting. It was a family affair from the get-go, and Pepper and his sister quickly continued their father’s winning legacy. Pepper was crowned the Junior Rok Northern Regions Karting Champion in 2009 but stayed regional for a reason that he is grateful for today.
“My dad instead always pushed me in karting to compete one age group higher, so I was always the youngest in the field,” Pepper said. “At the time, I really didn’t understand it because I always wanted to be a South African Champion. Now I look back, and it was for the better. I may not have the best karting curriculum vitae in the world, but what I learned is something that’s priceless. I was a kid being bullied and I had to fight back, and you’re not in that situation when you’re always out-front winning everything. I had to fight for it all, and I am grateful for that.”
His father’s wisdom has been a pillar to his success on and off the track, as Pepper continued to compete in cars under the family banner. Pepper joined his father and sister in the Volkswagen Cup in South Africa and after two successful seasons, it was a segue into the manufacturer’s talent-scouting series in Germany. Pepper went on to win the Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup Germany Championship in 2014 – keeping one thing in mind throughout his journey into Europe.
“My dad would always tell me, ‘If you are willing to put 100 percent into everything, I am willing to give 100 percent back,’” he said. “That sticks with me, because I use it even now. If I give my all in everything I do right now, the people around me will give 100 percent back. That’s the key to success. If I wasn’t willing to give that 100 percent, then we would not race that weekend. He didn’t force me, but he wanted me to give my all even if it was an eighth-place finish. From the moment he told me that, I’ve always given my best. Especially off the track, I’ve made sacrifices to push myself to the next level.”
Through Pepper’s stardom into GT3 racing the following year, he has remained humble. Though competing in Europe was the ultimate goal as it was the closest link to Africa, he will never truly say that he has ‘made it’ – even through all of his successes that steered him toward a factory ride with Bentley Motorsport in 2018.
“Even after my success in South Africa, I straight-away entered a new world of racing and I was suddenly the ‘unknown,’” Pepper said. “I don’t think there is ever a point where you feel that you’ve ‘made it,’ because the moment you get comfortable, there is someone who is working harder than you. There are milestones of course – like getting my first factory contract – but I need to continue to keep working hard and delivering on the track. How hard I work determines how long I can make this last, and I want to be sitting here 20-plus years from now happy to be a factory driver. That is the ultimate goal.”
One track that has been near-and-dear to Pepper is Nürburgring. It is not only the site of his first European win in 2013, but he was also able to secure a championship there the following season. Notably, it was the track where he competed alongside M-Sport with a Bentley customer works team, which served as the bridge to his first factory contract. Pepper made his mid-season debut with M-Sport at Circuit Paul Ricard, where he co-drove the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3 to a runner-up finish. He returned the following year to stand on the top-step, helping capture the second-generation model’s first European win.
“It was worth the wait,” said Pepper, who stepped in following the retirement of world-renowned racing veteran Guy Smith. “Sometimes, you don’t have that opportunity gifted right away, but you just have to be patient and trust that they believe in me as a talent. Bentley was a place I wanted to be, and I happily stepped in that season at Circuit Paul Ricard.”
Following a memorable start to the 2020 season with an M-Sport victory at the Bathurst 12 Hours, Pepper will share the seat in a star-studded K-PAX Racing line-up set to make its debut in Europe this season. Pepper said the win at Bathurst gave him a feeling, as if something was “unlocked” in him. Pepper will have the opportunity to have a similar feeling at one of his favorite tracks in 2020 under the K-PAX Racing banner.
“I feel [Bathurst] is one of those races that only sinks in when you return as the defending champions and all eyes are on you,” Pepper said. “We’ll forever be in the history books for such an iconic race. I want my career to be long and lasting and after Bathurst, I look forward to contending for the win at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. To have those two in my career would be special.”
Pepper will join the two-year driver pairing of Álvaro Parente and Andy Soucek, which helped the second-generation Continental GT3 to its first-ever pole position worldwide last season stateside. He will complete the three-driver combination – mirroring a race format that K-PAX Racing has seen in its three endurance races since 2016.
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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Circuit of The Americas 2021