For the first time since 2017, the Blancpain GT World Challenge is holding a multi-race day for Rounds 13 & 14 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3s found traction at the tail-end of the points championship by winning the first round from pole position. The victory simultaneously marked a milestone for team driver Álvaro Parente, who became the team’s most-winningest driver in history.
“So far, it’s a great race day for us — from pole to win,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “It’s a good way to close-out the first race of the weekend. We really have to congratulate our team, because they were phenomenal on the pit-stops. We were tenths over the limit where several other teams were seconds over. That just speaks to how great of a program we have. It is a testament to how hard we work.”
K-PAX Racing, known for its steadfast success with the new second-generation Continental GT3 through 2019, was able to extend its strong campaign at a new track on the series schedule. Since 2007, the team has visited 23 series tracks. In the 13-season span, K-PAX Racing has recorded a podium at every track and has won at 21 of them.
Parente, a four-year team driver, built on his legacy within the organization by surpassing three-time series champion Randy Pobst for most wins in team history. Parente has 15 victories to his name – with another opportunity from pole later today.
Pole position proved to be valuable entering Saturday’s race day, as the 12-turn, 2.51-mile “roval” configuration – which used the speedway’s infield and apron – put track position at a premium. K-PAX Racing showed its pace early in the weekend, recording the two quickest times in qualifying with its No. 9 entry. Andy Soucek secured pole in the opener with a best-time of 1:32.437. Parente followed suit for the finale, claiming the top starting spot with a 1:32.062.
The No. 9 pairing has consistently held pole position throughout the season, being awarded the spot at five of the seven tracks on the series schedule. The Parente – Soucek combination has earned pole for both races at two events (VIRginia International Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway). Together, they have been on pole seven times in 2019 (Parente – 4; Soucek – 3).
The No. 3 car of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet also showed its speed early, recording the fastest time in the first practice of the week with a 1:33.278. The driver pairing qualified third and fourth for the races.
The No. 9, operated by Andy Soucek, came under pressure at the drop of the green flag in Round 13. Soucek was shuffled back to third, however waged a battle with the No. 61 entry shortly after to recover some ground. In closed-course conditions, the No. 9 was able to successfully maneuver the pass. The No. 58 served a penalty from exceeding track limits exiting the eighth turn, ultimately giving Soucek the spot from where he started. From there, the Spaniard opened-up nearly a four-second gap on the field.
A speedy pit-stop by the No. 9 team helped the team extend its lead at the driver change. Parente entered the course with more than a seven-second buffer, ultimately crossing the checkers 8.405 seconds quicker than the field. The No. 3 car meanwhile kept its pace in fourth, collecting a spot in the final laps from a tire puncture that forced the third-position No. 58 entry to prematurely pit.
K-PAX Racing will try to put both cars on the podium once again to finish the event – a feat it has accomplished in two other events this season (Rounds 5-6: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Rounds 9-10: Watkins Glen International). The green flag is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. (PT).
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “It’s a perfect weekend so far — one more to go. We have two poles and one race win, and we controlled the race quite nicely. We had a good gap from two and three. Let’s see what we can do later tonight, but a big congratulations to the team as they’ve done a fantastic job so far. We made some changes on the car this weekend, and it’s been working very well. In the end, the track suits us quite nicely. We weren’t expecting it, but it does. There are just a few sectors that are more challenging, but all the rest is very quick.
[Becoming the team’s most-winningest driver] a very great notch on the belt, and I’m very happy to be the guy winning the most races for K-PAX Racing.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “I knew [Scott] Hargrove was going to try around the outside in the first turn — I was expecting it. I just kept on the racing line, and he went too far off the line. I knew he was either going to get a driver-through or have to give the position back. Unfortunately, I lost a position to [Toni] Vilander as well, which I then had to get back. I made a good move into the third turn, and after Scott gave me the position back, I managed the pace and pushed as hard as I could. But, I think we won the race in the pit-stop. It was really nicely executed, and the other two cars behind us lost three or four seconds. That’s what gave us breathing room to the end.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd) – “We lost a bit of time during the start of the race. I was trying to keep the position, but it’s quite tricky at the start to stay on the inside. I lost the position to a driver in the Pro-Am class, and because it’s difficult to pass here, we lost a bit of time. We had the pace when I passed him, but I was too far from the other guys, so I just managed to keep the pace until I handed the car off to Max [Soulet].”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 3rd) – “I tried to push, but the pace was pretty equal to the three guys ahead. We were quite lucky with the puncture on the Porsche. It’s racing — sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. In this case and as a team, we won. I can’t complain and third place is great points for the team.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. Bob Chapman