K-PAX Racing produced positive results during the 11th and 12th Rounds of Blancpain GT World Challenge America at Road America. The team’s two-car effort ultimately added to its podium tally with three podium performances in the series’ Pro class.
The team’s pair of second-generation Bentley Continental GT3s have been represented on the podium at every event at least once – 19 total podiums for the season, which is the most in a season since 2007. The team has been on a fast-track of success with Bentley, standing on the podium 37 times over two seasons (34 races) – with two races remaining in 2019.
In the event opener, the No. 3 and No. 9 secured the second row of a 14-car field. Starting third and fourth respectively, the two cars traded positions in the opening lap which gave hope that the top-two championship contenders could compete on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn midwestern gem. Though the No. 9 was unable to close the gap to the leader, it made a late push in the final minutes of the race to second until a fuel pick up issue forced the team to settle for fourth in its class. The No. 3 regained the spot, finishing on the podium for the eighth time this season.
“It’s been a challenging weekend as far as rules and regulations,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “Our drivers have been pushing hard and getting the most out of the cars all weekend. We executed our pit-stops well, raced well but just didn’t have the pace we expected. Not to take anything away from any other cars but it was surprising to see the speed that some produced this weekend. I’m proud of the K-PAX Racing organization, and we will keep pushing hard, fighting through the remainder of the season.”
Mother Nature made its presence known ahead of the finale, with early-morning showers creating wet track conditions for the start of the race. The team started mid-pack in the finale – sixth (No. 9) and eighth (No. 3) overall on the grid. The No. 9 of Álvaro Parente made a strong push from the outside at the drop of the green flag, overtaking fifth position – and the class lead – within seconds. Parente earned the Optima Batteries “Best Start” award for the most positions gained at the start. The No. 3 followed the lead of its sister car, making a pass for second (seventh overall).
Two speedy pit-stops helped both teams maintain their position heading into the second-half of the 90-minute race. With under 30 minutes remaining, the No. 3 of Rodrigo Baptista engaged in a fierce battle with the No. 61 entry, holding it off through the majority of his stint. Meanwhile, the No. 9 of Andy Soucek began to close the gap and pass the Pro-Am competitors in-front of him – simultaneously creating two seconds worth of breathing room in the Pro class.
A full-course yellow with 10 minutes remaining regrouped the field, however confusion ensued when the green flag was suddenly waved thereafter. The incident caused the two Continental GT3s to fall back into second and third in class, where both would finish. K-PAX Racing filed a protest following the race and upon review, it was upheld. The team’s finish in the finale remains provisional until a final resolution is made.
“We had a great race going and both cars we in a very good position,” Law said. “Toward the end of the race there was an incident on-track, and the series immediately called ‘full-course yellow and ‘safety car.’ Unfortunately, the series did not follow the designated ‘pace car procedure.’ This altered the outcome of the race. We filed a protest regarding the incorrect procedure, and once the stewards had a chance to review the situation, they agreed with us and our protest was upheld. We are awaiting to hear what the outcome will be.”
“We had some challenges this weekend, but all of the drivers put in top-performances. Rodrigo did an unbelievable job the entire final stint being able to keep [Daniel] Serra behind him. The start of this race had challenges because of the on-and-off rain conditions. We had to compromise our setup not knowing whether it was going to rain or not. We had a good run and there are still a lot of championships to be decided in the final event.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 2nd*) – “The end was just a cluster [in the first race]. We managed the entire way, but it was the fuel at the end. We thought the safety car was going to be a good break, but we didn’t. It’s a shame because we would have finished second after getting past [Scott] Hargrove.
We passed our main rivals at the start [of the second race]. The pace from there wasn’t the best because we had a wet setup on. So, I held on the rest of the stint.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 2nd*) – “I had a better exit because Rodrigo [Baptista] was on the inside [in the first race]. But we didn’t want to get involved in any situation with our teammate. He was kind enough not to block me, and I made a move. I tried to fight with the Porsche and the pace was good initially, but he pulled a bit of a gap. I think in that transition, I pushed too hard and worked the front tires too much. I started to understeer, and he pulled away. I did what I could. Look: We’re a team that wins and loses together.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd, Race 2 – 3rd*) – “It’s hard to compare to the Ferrari, but we did a good job on pace [in the first race]. I think my pace was good, and I was pushing. Other than that, there was nothing I could do. The Porsche was really strong and so was the Ferrari.
We did not have the pace since the beginning of the week, and we were one to two seconds slower. We knew it was going to be a difficult weekend for us if they didn’t change the BOP (Balance of Performance), and that didn’t happen. We did what we could from the beginning. The Ferrari was very quick, and I was just trying to hold him to keep the position.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd, Race 2 – 3rd*) – “We knew we didn’t have the pace in the first race, and we lost tire pressure with the safety car. I think the Porsche could really warm-up their tires quickly, and we couldn’t. So, I was braking earlier and if it was any later, I would have hit them. It was a difficult race, but it was still points.
I had a decent start and stint [in the second race]. The pace was not great, but we gave it all we had. We got some points, and that’s what matters. I think we are pretty safe in third in the Drivers Championship.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. Gavin Baker