K-PAX Racing locked-out the second row in the seventh round of Blancpain GT World Challenge America, resulting in two podiums in the event opener at Sonoma Raceway. The dual podiums by the team’s pair of Bentley Continental GT3s give K-PAX Racing a total of 11 top-three performances through nearly four events.
“That was a really great race for us,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “We don’t believe this track is as favorable to the Bentley as some of the other cars. So, that was probably the best we could have done, and we’re happy to have both cars on the podium. That was really good for keeping us in the points hunt, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
“It was also very good to get both cars on the podium at our home track in front of the Bentley crowd. There are a lot of Bentley guests here, and we’re really proud to have shown them a good finish.”
K-PAX Racing has podiumed in each of the last five series events held at Sonoma Raceway – with the exception of the 2018 season, when the team’s home-track was not on the schedule. Dating back to 2014, K-PAX Racing has captured nine podiums at Sonoma. The team continues its streak of podiums through the 2019 season, having at least one top-three performance in each of the first four events.
Though the team expected there to be some challenges with the Sonoma course compared to others on the season schedule, it set a promising tone with quick lap-times in qualifying. The two Continental GT3s shared the second row in a 19-car field, and at the drop of the green flag, the No. 3 – in the hands of Rodrigo Baptista – took advantage of a chaotic start by securing second position.
Thereon, Baptista spent his entire shift fending off the No. 58 entry in thrilling fashion. Baptista managed to create a small half-second buffer into the mandatory driver change, while the No. 9 of Andy Soucek maintained fourth position into his pit-stop. Baptista owes his exponential growth and improving racecraft to the combined field of professional and amateur drivers – mainly touching on last season when he started as an amateur.
“At the beginning of last year, I was learning a lot competing with the Pro guys, and even now I’m still learning,” Baptista said. “That battle proves that it was really good for me to be fighting with the Pro guys last year. Now, I can fight like a Pro.”
The K-PAX Racing crew has prioritized speedy stops during the 2019 season, which helped the No. 9 car enter the podium at the driver change. In the second-half of the race, with Max Soulet and Álvaro Parente at the helm of each car, the team’s Continental GT3s together opened-up nearly a 15-second gap from fourth position. The No. 3 crossed the line in second, and the No. 9 rounded-out the podium.
K-PAX Racing will start seventh and 10th on the grid for the event finale.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd) – “We did not have the pace for the Ferrari, but congratulations to our guys with the pit-stop. They have been great. Congratulations to our teammates and the team for finishing second and third. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd) – “I think we had the best result we could as a team. I wish it would have been the other way around with the other car.
I had a better start than Rodrigo and had the position from the outside. But, [Scott] Hargrove lost the car fighting with [Miguel] Molina. He nearly spun in front of me, so I had to back off and Rodrigo passed him. I lost essentially two places because of that. I think we could have been in second in the race. That would have been important to us in terms of the championship. So: Sorry to Álvaro for losing that opportunity, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
They [Hargrove and Baptista] were in a fight all stint long, so I was trying to find an opportunity, but they never made a big enough mistake. I was not going to take the chance, so I had to stay behind them.
We had a mega pit-stop, and the team is doing very well with them. We only lost six or seven tenths to the delta, which was great. I think it was the fastest of the race. Third place was more than what we could have dreamed of unfortunately because our car does not quite suit the track. Tomorrow, we will look to do all that we can to have a good result.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) – “My start wasn’t great, but I was lucky that [Scott] Hargrove went a little wide so I could pass him. We did not have the pace after the pass, so I was just fighting to hold onto second position. The guys did a great job on the pit-stop as always, and the result was good for the championship.
At the beginning of last year, I was learning a lot competing with a lot of the Pro guys, and even now I’m still learning. That battle proves that it was really good for me to be fighting with the Pro guys last year. Now, I can fight like a Pro.
I don’t think I had the pace in the first two races this year, but I continue to learn. That’s a great thing about the championship: We race with everyone together. For the guys running Am now, it’s going to get better and better.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) – “We just need to score the maximum amount of points we can this weekend. We know this track does not really suit our car, so I’m really happy with second. The team did a brilliant job with second and third. That’s what we need to do tomorrow.
Tomorrow is going to be more difficult because we’re starting further back, but let’s see. I think our race pace compared to our top-competitors is not as quick, but with the others it’s not bad. We’ll see how the race goes tomorrow.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. K-PAX Racing/Bob Chapman