Soucek to Break Ground in SprintX Opener at Circuit of The Americas
Will compete in his first American sports car race
Even with more than 20 years of racing experience, K-PAX Racing addition Andy Soucek – who signed with the team in February – will follow the team’s trend of new experiences in the 2018 race season. Soucek will be making his American sports car racing debut in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX opening round today at Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
“I know all the race tracks, most of the people, and I’m used to the business in Europe,” said Soucek, who has also been introducing himself to the GT racing scene state-side. “But, I’ve been keeping a close eye on America particularly in the last few years – when GT racing has grown quite a bit. I’ve been following Pirelli World Challenge as well, and it’s a good opportunity this season to take part in that championship with K-PAX Racing – a winning team with a great history and a team that is very professional in what they do.”
Soucek, who has been a Bentley factory driver since 2015, said he wanted to take this step in his career because he feels he can win with K-PAX Racing. The 32-year-old Spaniard, hailing from Madrid, has competed in the Blancpain Endurance Cup over the last two seasons and finished in the top-three in both championships with teammate Max Soulet. Soulet, a proven 34-year-old Bentley factory driver from Nivelles, Belgium, will also join K-PAX Racing for the 2018 PWC SprintX season. He will be returning to the United States for the first time since 2012.
“I have the feeling that everything is well-prepared and that we will have to fight hard because the level of competition is so high,” Soucek said. “I am 100 percent motivated. It’s a car that I know very well so aside from the race tracks, I think I’m going to feel very comfortable.”
From studying the series’ tracks from afar, Soucek determined American tracks generally are “old-fashioned” tracks with larger curbs, which will be a new challenge for him. Specifically for COTA and after seeing the track for the first time, Soucek said the course feels “very similar to the simulator.” On Friday, Soucek posted the quickest time in practice with a 2:06.463 — which was more than a half-second over the rest of the field in the morning session.
“The Streets of St. Petersburg is a course with big curbs where you need to jump over them and find the limits within the walls,” said Soucek, comparing the PWC season-opener two weeks ago to the team’s current stop in Texas. “COTA is completely the opposite. It is a quick track with very flowy sections in sectors one and three with fast corners. It’s smooth, but also quite bumpy in some areas. One thing that is difficult to replicate on the simulator are the bumps, so the areas that may unsettle the car are what makes a significant difference. But, our car is more comfortable in those quick corners that don’t require low-gears for traction and hard braking points. COTA is more suited for our car, and I felt comfortable right-away.”
One familiarity Soucek has in his debut with the team is in the driver pairing. Soucek is the co-driver of the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 with former PWC Champion Álvaro Parente. Parente, from Porto, Portugal, rose through the racing ranks with Soucek in Europe. The two have been racing with – and against – each other since 2002. The two were even teammates in the GP2 Series and raced together under McLaren in 2014.
“I talked to Álvaro pretty much every day leading into this race,” Soucek said. “I have a long-term relationship with him. He’s a driver I’ve known for a long time. I respect him a lot because I think he is incredibly talented. He has very good skills and car control, he is very smooth and overall his pace is extremely quick. There’s not much more I can ask for to be honest.”
Soucek said in terms of driving style, Parente may be smoother and little more aggressive in the corners than he is. But, when the team is adapting to a new manufacturer on all fronts, his knowledge of the Continental GT3 may aid the team throughout the weekend and beyond.
“Our driving styles are a little different, but the Bentley has a very particular driving style that I’m used to and maybe he needs to adapt because he is new to the car,” Soucek said. “But, I’m sure he’ll be flying at COTA during the race. To be honest, I always thought any good driver adapts quickly to any car. You don’t need to be a specialist to jump in a car right-away and be quick. But, it’s true that there are some particularities with each race car that you need to learn.”
“The Bentley is more of a comfortable car that you would drive home let’s say, but when you ask for 100 percent from it, it’s a very efficient car. It doesn’t feel very normal and the body has a bit more roll to it. But when you push it to the limit, the car is incredibly good on the racetrack. It’s a good car that’s very efficient and it’s good on tires as well. I think it’s the best GT car in fast corners. It’s a very good compromise – it has good straight-line speed though we carry a bit more drag and weight. It also brakes well. The car has very good areas and the least-performing areas are still good. All-in-all, it’s a tremendously good race car.”
While Soucek and Soulet have offered more insight to the Bentley race cars specifically, Parente and GTA talent Rodrigo Baptista have helped in the way of tracks. Soucek said the goal is to at least stand on the podium at COTA. For K-PAX Racing’s driver pairing in the Pro-Am category, Baptista drew first blood at St. Petersburg by giving the team two podium finishes. Now with the addition of Soulet in the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3, the two will seek to build from the momentum of a strong start.
“I think with the driver pairings that we have, we should be aiming for a podium finish,” Soucek said. “I think that’s a reasonable goal for us. It’s my first race driving with K-PAX Racing, and the car is new to them. They have done some testing in the past, but this track is very particular. With the right setup, we should be aiming for a podium. Also, I think the pairing is good for both cars and that will help us be consistent and quick during the race.”
For Soucek and Soulet, the opening rounds at COTA will be the first time the two will be competing in separate cars since they both joined Bentley in 2015. When the two were told that they would be competing with K-PAX Racing in 2018, the friendly banter began.
“I need to beat him, that’s for sure,” said a laughing Soucek. “It will be a good challenge between us. He’s a great driver, and his skills are very good as well. We are pretty much as quick in every race – usually one-tenth of a second from each other. Whether he is faster or I am, it doesn’t matter. We’re very similar in terms of pace. I think Max and Rodrigo will be a great lineup in Pro-Am, and they will be very strong for sure. They will be a good measurement to know where I am, and I’m looking forward to that. We’ve been racing together for four years now – still through Europe – and I think we are more than friends. We are brothers. We spend a lot of time together and it was quite funny when we learned that we will be racing against each other.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 109 podiums, 43 wins, four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class K-PAX 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.
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, Brian Gush 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.
Optimum Polymer Technologies, the manufacturer of Opti-Coat, was founded in Memphis, Tenn., on July 1, 2001 by Dr. David Ghodoussi. Prior to this, Dr. Ghodoussi worked for over 12 years as an Organic Chemist overseeing research and development focused in polymers and automotive paint formulations.
For more than a decade, Opti-Coat has been setting the industry standard with their unique coating technologies developing and manufacturing proprietary resins utilizing Silicon Carbide (SiC) chemistry. Opti-Coat’s purpose is to provide clients with a product that is the most durable, innovative and protective coating available.
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