Parente, Barnicoat Finish on the Podium at Lime Rock
No. 9 crew records two podium finishes in four SprintX races
May 26, 2017 – Alvaro Parente, who is widely known as one of the series’ strongest competitors since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2016, was in Ben Barnicoat’s shoes last season – a rookie unfamiliar to most, if not all the tracks on the schedule. On Friday afternoon however, the duo stepped onto the podium in the Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park opener. The two ultimately climbed four spots in a 33-car field to a third-place finish.
Like Parente last season, Barnicoat made his debut at the famed 1.5-mile bullring – which is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. Likewise, they both found success in their first appearance. Parente dominated the field last season, ultimately sweeping the event. Since, Parente and Barnicoat have teamed-up under the SprintX class and have recorded a podium finish in two of four races. Barnicoat owes his development and success to the SprintX format. Parente, who had to adapt to a new track at every stop on the series schedule, is coaching Barnicoat through a similar scenario. They are achieving success – together.
“In many ways, I was lucky that it was Alvaro’s first time [at Lime Rock Park] last season,” Barnicoat said. “All the experiences that he went through were still fresh in his mind, so it was probably easier for him to guide me through this track. He was very clear with the tricky bits here and his guidance really helps me a lot. I have this amazing driver in the early-stages of my career guiding me as a teammate. I am very lucky to have him around.”
Opening day at Lime Rock was trifold – practice, qualifying and the first race were all condensed into one day. Parente and Barnicoat, who pilot the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3, were quickest in practice with a blistering time of 52.019 – more than two-tenths of a second faster than the field. Parente recorded the time early in the session before dark clouds surrounded the course. A culmination of damp conditions and red flags ended the practice session prematurely, and the team had to quickly adjust to the changing track conditions for qualifying.
K-PAX Racing ultimately qualified its two Pro cars inside the Top-10. The No. 9 car qualified seventh, and the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Jonny Kane was set to start ninth in the 60-minute race. In the Pro-Am class, the No. 98 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 of Michael Lewis and Mike Hedlund qualified ninth among drivers in their division. They started 19th overall. Parente said the weather posed some adversity for the team but even so, they moved forward with the plan – to “gain some good points.”
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have the qualifying that we wanted,” Program Manager Darren Law said. “It made it tough, and this series is so close and competitive that I have to hand it to the guys. They did a great job on-track. Ben kept [the car] up in a position similar to where they started, and Alvaro did a phenomenal job on the restart. He made up a lot of ground, drove well, and we’re happy to get a podium and come away with some good points.”
Barnicoat started the race and throughout his stint, held-off those barreling down the long straightaways close behind him. Within the first 10 minutes of the race, he cut his lap time down from 54-plus seconds to consistent lap times in the 52-second range. The team emphasized fast lap times, as they accounted for the bigger picture. The starting grid for the finale will be organized by fastest lap time from the first race.
All three K-PAX Racing drivers maintained their positions through the first half of the race. Sellers, who started the race for the No. 6 car, swiftly handed off the wheel to Kane and Parente took control of the No. 9 car within the next few laps. The No. 98 team experienced mechanical issues with the car’s steering, eventually ending its day early.
A series of unfortunate events catapulted Parente to the Top-five, including a penalty on the No. 6 car for a pit stop time violation. Kane was aggressive in moving toward the top, eventually eclipsing the Top-five before taking the penalty. The move of the race was shortly after, when Parente made a risky move in the chicane, passing two drivers into a podium position. Parente would finish in third and while Kane was penalized, he managed to muscle his car to a second-consecutive Top-10 finish for the No. 6 crew.
“I’m very happy with the result,” said Parente while grinning at Barnicoat. “I was lucky on the positioning [in the chicane] – where my car, the slow car and my opponent’s car were. I managed to get a great exit off the chicane and pass them. It was the right moment, and it was good.”
I think as factory drivers, you need to adapt to new situations very quickly like a new track. We’ve managed to do that. I did all last year as all the tracks were new to me. Ben is very talented, learns tracks quickly and is fast too. We’re working together, and we have a lot of information about these tracks from the team. We’re just putting it all together.’
K-PAX Racing added a new decal on Friday to each of its cars. The decals, which complement the Family House logo on the cars’ roofs, are drawings from children in the program. The team will continue to add more drawings from families receiving assistance from the non-profit organization, giving drivers the extra push to continue their on-track success.
“It means a great deal supporting Family House like this,” Barnicoat said. “We have the Family House logo on the roof and the main thing this week was the kids’ drawings. I really look forward to their reaction from seeing their drawing on the cars. It puts a big smile on all of our faces, and I hope it brings them joy and happiness – which is what they deserve in the situation they’re in.”
The team will try to stand on the podium again tomorrow for the event’s finale. For details, visit world-challenge.com.
Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 3rd) – “I plan to have a good start to tomorrow’s race – see if I can get any positions. If not, I plan on giving the car to Ben in good shape so he can pass some guys at the end. We are hopeful that we’ll have a great result tomorrow.”
Ben Barnicoat – No. 9 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 3rd) – “It was great to be back on the podium. Everything was going our way. Hopefully [tomorrow], Alvaro can make some better ground on the start. It was tricky for me today, but I’m sure he’ll have a good go at it. I’m sure he’ll do a good job the first half of the race, so my plan is to duplicate that and make the best of the traffic at the end of the race.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 6 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 8th) – “We definitely could have had a better result than what we showed. There was just a little bit of bad luck. But the good thing is, we have a race tomorrow. We’re going to look at what we did here and undo some things we didn’t like. We’d like to turnaround our luck tomorrow.”
Jonny Kane – No. 6 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 8th) – “Bryan did a good job in the first stint. I thought we were taking a little long on the pit stop because we were trying to bleed the rear tires to get a little pressure out of them. When I got in the car, I made a good, hard move to get passed the Acura. There was a little contact, but it was hard, fair racing. [The penalty] kind of put us out of the reckoning. All the guys here at K-PAX deserves more than that, so hopefully our luck changes tomorrow. Hopefully we get a podium soon.”
Mike Hedlund (Pro/Am Class) – No. 98 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 12th) – “We had a clean start to the race and made up a couple positions. It turned into single-file laps, but we managed to come into the pits in seventh position and hand the car off to Michael. We still had a shot until we had some mechanical problems. We parked the car because it was unsafe.”
Michael Lewis (Pro/Am Class) – No. 98 McLaren 650S (Race 1 – 12th) – “Mike had a great start, and he was driving well. He handed the car off to me in a good position. I couldn’t lock the steering wheel in position. The lever to adjust it and lock it into position was broken. After the out-lap, I told the guys that I didn’t think it was safe. That was our race.”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 102 podiums, 41 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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