Podium winning pace goes unrewarded for K-PAX Racing at Monza
K-PAX Racing had to endure disappointment at the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup when a technical problem ruled the team out of a likely podium finish.
Heading to Autodromo Nazionale Monza with its brand-new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 and Pro-class line up of Franck Perera, Marco Mapelli, and Sandy Mitchell, hopes were high for a front-running return to European competition.
Starting the weekend with the 90-minute Free Practice session on Saturday morning, the team were on the back foot as an electrical issue limited running. The problem was solved by the Pre Qualifying session, meaning the drivers could get some meaningful running under their belts, all useful considering the last time they drive the car was at Paul Ricard in early March.
Saturday’s Qualifying session was delayed by 45-minutes due to power outages at the circuit, something that would re-occur, which resulted in the cancellation of Q3. After that the grid was decided on the aggregate of the times set in Q1 and Q2, by Marco and Sandy respectively, who’s times were good enough to line up eighth of the 55 cars entered.
Unable to run in Qualifying, it was decided that Franck should take the first stint of the three-hour race, and he got a good start despite being crowded out and forced onto the grass as cars went four wide into the Rettifilo Chicane. He held the outside line to avoid incident and emerged in seventh place as an incident erupted behind, resulting in the Safety Car being called.
It was 15 minutes before racing would resume and then only briefly as further contact eliminated two Lamborghinis, with one stranded on the kerbs at the first chicane, and the Safety Car was once again called.
As the clock hit the 30-minute mark racing resumed and, with pack settling down, Franck began to make progress, moving up into sixth and then fifth before pitting to hand over to Sandy. With a slick stop from the K-PAX crew, he re-joined in fifth and immediately began hunting down the car ahead place.
He caught the number 88 Mercedes into the first turn but was forced wide and had to concede the place before successfully completing the move at the Della Roggio chicane. From then on, he began to slowly reel in the third placed BMW, becoming not only the fastest Lamborghini on track, but the fastest car, closing to within a second of Neil Verhagen until he noticed an issue at the rear of the car. Nursing it to the pit stop, he pitted from the lead to hand over to Marco but, unfortunately, as he exited the pits smoke began to cone from the front left of the car forcing him to retire two corners later.
While it was a sad end to an impressive performance, it certainly marked the team out as one to watch for the rest of the season. K-PAX Racing will now focus on identifying the issue and look forward to a competitive performance at the next round of the series, the 1000km Paul Ricard in the South of France on the 2nd & 3rd June.
“It’s a real shame that we had to retire but we have to take the positives. We arrived with just a couple of miles in the car as we didn’t do much pre-season testing. I didn’t even drive much, I did just three laps on Saturday, and I couldn’t do Q3. The team did an amazing job to get the car ready and it was really running well.
“I was going to the race without any mileage on the track, but the car was really good. At the start I got pushed onto the grass and I had to do all the straight on the grass, which was not an easy one. Then you go into the second chicane, everybody moves, I braked on the inside to save my position, and they almost hit me from behind. An Audi cut the chicane and passed me, but I was just trying to be safe. I think everyone was just trying to be optimistic.
“I was happy about my stint; I gave it everything and the pace was good. We were running P4, and Sandy did a good job but unfortunately something broke. We will work hard to be more prepared for Paul Ricard. It’s very positive for the team, we have the pace to fight at least for the podium at the minimum this season.”
“The weekend was pretty crazy, very up and down. The car felt good as soon as we turned up here, so I think we’ve had a strong package. We’ve been able to push that forward and develop it throughout the practice sessions.
“We had a really strong qualifying, made no big mistakes, and managed to stick it inside the top ten overall. Then we were looking forward in the race rather than behind, Franck managed to get one or two positions and I gained another. Overall, we were having a really strong race. I was in P4, but some sort of mechanical issue meant that we had to stop the car, which is really unfortunate.
“The three drivers, engineers and everyone at K-PAX Racing have worked so well together this weekend, and we’ve delivered a really strong package. Taking the positives, we’ve showed we have amazing speed and hopefully we can take that forward into the next couple of rounds.”
“The weekend was really tough at the beginning because we had an electronic issue but in the end the team did a great job. We fixed everything and on Saturday evening in Pre-Qualifying the car was fine.
“In the morning the car was fine and in the race Frank and Sandy said the car was perfect. I as soon as I got in the car, I felt in the pit lane that the left was down, so I tried to come back but it was just too dangerous for the car. I don’t know what happened but we’re looking forward to the next race because we are there with the pace.”
Darren Law, Program Manager
“I’m very proud of how we ran this weekend. It’s our first race of the season, coming over to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. The result was unfortunate, but the car was quick. We were the quickest Lamborghini, and we had a great run going, but, you know, it’s racing. We don’t know exactly what happened yet, we had some type of mechanical failure, so we’ll assess it and move on to the next one.
“It’s been a big logistical challenge getting here and I think we showed up and showed well, and proved to everybody that we’re in the fight here and we can run with the front guys. We’ll assess the situation and come back for the next round at Paul Ricard.”
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