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Parente, K-PAX win consecutive seasons at Long Beach
Sellers joins Parente on the podium as third-place finisher
When Alvaro Parente unbuckled his helmet Sunday in victory lane, he revealed a smile different from when he won the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Long Beach Brought to you by Optima Batteries last season. This time, he led the pack for all 31 laps to capture his second consecutive victory at the 1.968-mile course.
“I’m very happy to pass the finish line first this time,” said Parente, who won from a disqualification last season. “I really wanted to get this win. I had a great car on my hands. The team did a great job on our McLaren GT, and I’m just very happy to be on the top step today.
Parente started on the pole by his lightning-fast time in qualifying and set the track record for the GT class, an honor he already held prior to the weekend. Within the final minutes of qualifying, Parente recorded a 1:18.883, which was 0.064 seconds faster than the previous mark. Before qualifying, Parente communicated to the team that the faster times would fall toward the end of the session. The team pushed forward on his assertion.
“I was quite surprised with the lap time,” Parente said. “The track wasn’t fully dry [from last night’s rain], and I believe everything would have been quicker had [the conditions] been normal. I knew the end would have been better, and I started to push with seven minutes left to go. [The time] wasn’t even close, but we started hitting it right – enough to get the pole. The last laps are when the track is driest, and that’s when you’re going to see your lap times come out.”
Parente used track position to his advantage, separating his No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 racecar from the 22-car pack by more than four-tenths of a second within the first five minutes; his margin of victory nearly doubled at the 10-minute mark. Meanwhile teammate Bryan Sellers, starting third, established his No. 6 car on the podium.
“Normally track time is limited, but that wasn’t the case for this one,” said Sellers, who also competed in IMSA over the weekend. “I think K-PAX is happy to have two cars on the podium, and certainly it does not cease to amaze me the level of competition in this series. You can never let down for one lap.”
A delay at nearly the 20-minute mark caused by water on the track eventually regrouped the field for the restart. When the green flag dropped, Parente catapulted his car to a 1.717-second lead with 27 minutes remaining. Teammate Mike Hedlund, who is competing in the GTA class in 2017, ranked fourth quickest of the eight drivers in his class. Hedlund’s No. 98 car contacted the wall while exiting turn 11, eventually sidelining him for the remaining 15 minutes.
As for Parente, he never looked back. The reigning series champion built a .600-second cushion, and Sellers maintained his third place standing. Though Parente’s lead was diminished to as little as .385 seconds, within the final five minutes he boosted his car to a 2.860- second margin of victory.
While Parente recorded his second consecutive series win of 2017, Sellers recovered from ninth place finish in the St. Petersburg finale with a podium in his second event with the team. Sellers recorded the fastest time in the series’ final practice before qualifying, besting the field in his final lap with a 1:20.630.
“You just have to be on all the time in this series,” Sellers said. “I think the series will continue to raise the competitive ability of everyone in the series. It was just Alvaro’s day. No one could beat him, and he was in a class of his own.”
The team will travel back to VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) April 28-30, where the series will introduce its SprintX Class. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S (1st) – “I love street courses, and this one I particularly love a lot. I’m lucky to be driving a very fast car around here as well. Bryan was very fast, too. To finish in third and third position is a very good result for our team.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 6 McLaren 650S (3rd) – “It was a good weekend, and definitely an improvement from St. Petersburg – a place where I think I didn’t do a very good job. I was excited to come here to show myself that I could do the job. It was a great day for the team. Any time you can stick two drivers on the podium, it’s good.”
Mike Hedlund (GTA Class) – No. 98 McLaren 650S (22nd) – “Our K-PAX McLaren 650S was great all weekend. I had a fast car for today’s race but made a mistake going for a podium position. Street races are unforgiving and today I paid the price. It’s a shame because our crew deserved a better result, but we’ll get the No. 98 fixed back up for VIR and be ready to fight!”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 97 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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