K-PAX Racing officially added an extension of its winning pedigree in North America with the GT World Challenge America Powered By AWS during the season opening rounds at Circuit of The Americas (Tex.). The proven driver pairing of Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne made its team debut, fielding the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 in the series’ Pro-Am class.
The first two rounds of series action not only gave the team an opportunity to work closely together as a unit, but also served as a true test for Cosmo and Byrne to learn the car under intense race conditions. While Byrne hopped in the seat of the Continental GT3 last month for a shakedown test at Sonoma Raceway (Calif.), it was Cosmo’s first chance to harness the power of the car’s 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8.
“Guy and Patrick are really good to work with,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “They’re established, have the experience and fit right in with all the guys. It’s now just a matter of them working with the engineers — that’s the biggest part — in conveying what the car needs. It just doesn’t happen in one race or one weekend.”
“It’ll be a building process, and we have a long way to go. A major takeaway is that the drivers were able to feel how the car is in actual competition, so we’ll continue to go into these races with a better understanding of what we need to be successful.”
Wet conditions during qualifying presented some challenges for the field, but the Continental GT3 pressed on to a fourth position start for the first round set for later that day. Byrne, who was in the seat first, recorded a time of 2:31.932. Cosmo battled increasingly slick track conditions, claiming the 12th overall spot for the finale with a 2:26.723.
“One of the biggest detriments was the rain increase during that pit-stop [from a red flag],” Byrne said. “While we were waiting, the rain increased and with that went the grip. It was not to the level that you would put on rain tires — it was the weird in-between. So, you’re still on hot slicks on a wet, greasy track and every single minute that goes by, it gets worse and worse.”
“The cars in front of me were slower which held us up, but we did what we could. You can’t really use curbs or out-brake someone in the wet, so we weren’t able to get by them in enough time. By the time I did, the track went away, and I couldn’t get the power down where we needed it.”
The green flag waved the 14-car field into the iconic 133-foot climb to a narrow Turn 1, where Byrne was quickly challenged to defend track position. From sixth overall and within the first five laps of the race, the No. 8 was spun by contact exiting Turn 20. Byrne skillfully saved the car, rejoining the field 10th in class nearing the half-hour mark of the race. Byrne recovered track position heading into the pit window, handing the car off in ninth.
“Expect better starts from us, but the car had great power [at the start] and we really didn’t lose too much — two spots,” Byrne said. “We had good initial race pace because I could be on-power where others could not. We need to make up time in the braking zones and brake properly in this car. I was able to put a pass on a couple guys and crawl my way back. I got spun around half-way in Turn 16, which is no way how you should race. Luckily, I was able to hang on to the car.”
“We had good racing side-by-side into the carousel and got a good boost on our competition on the dirty side, which turns into the clean side at the end. I was able to get to full power and gap him through the next corner. I went to brake and turn-in — totally clear — and he just slammed into our back tire. It was a full-spin and we lost a lot of spaces. I was able to recover, but the rear was out of tow — the tire slightly facing the wrong way but enough where you can’t go very fast.”
K-PAX Racing, known for its speedy pit-stops, was able to get Cosmo and the No. 8 back out on track for the closing-half of the race. Cosmo maintained track position for the duration of his stint, ultimately crossing the line eighth in class (10th overall).
“Clearly, it wasn’t the debut we wanted with K-PAX Racing and in this Bentley,” Cosmo said. “It was a series of events that continually went wrong for us. Patrick had a really good stint going and had some contact, which put us behind a little. I think that set off the car’s alignment and when I got in, it really caught me by surprise. You have an expectation of what you’re going to do out there, and just like that, it snapped on me.”
The event finale saw the No. 8 car 11th on the grid for another 90 minutes of action. Cosmo, who had a strong start to his stint, was spun by contact in Turn 11. However, Cosmo was able to recover track position heading into the driver change, where Byrne was able to get as high as seventh in the Pro-Am class. A restart late in the race, regrouping the field, ultimately was the precursor to the No. 8 retiring prematurely as it suffered extensive frontal damage from contact exiting the first turn.
“The yellow came out and it was really going to put Patrick in a great position to run down the group of drivers he was racing with,” Cosmo said. “That was our saving grace knowing that the yellow was going to close the gap for him. The incident with the Ferrari was just highly unfortunate.”
“The attention to detail is amazing with everybody on the team, and that’s what makes this exciting and motivating. I know everyone, collectively, is working toward the same goal. I’m enthused by the collaborative push between all of us to keep moving forward.”
Next on the series schedule is Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Ont.) May 15-17.
“It was the first weekend, so there is a learning curve,” Law said. “We’re wrapping our heads around the new tire and group of drivers. It was reasonable to start with, but we just ended up having some tough luck. We’ll gather everything up and move on to the next one.”
Guy Cosmo – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 8th, Race 2 – 8th) – “We were just off the mark, trying to get the car happy so we could be competitive enough to make a charge. We were hoping we made some pretty whole sale changes to find some improvement, but things were not going our way.
All we can do is focus forward and prepare for the remainder of the season. We need to reboot, and we have a lot of smart people to reevaluate and find a new plan of attack.”
Patrick Byrne – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 8th, Race 2 – 8th) – “The guys are ‘on it’ and know what they are supposed to be doing. They also know what to do if things go awry. They are tested and proven, having been in the series for many years. You can feel all the changes being made to the car, and when I started the race it was great — it hooked up well, and if we can have that car for the rest of the season then we are going to be very competitive.
We need to develop the car more. Steve [Conover] threw a big dart to get the setup right, and it seemed like on my very last laps that the setup in high-speed sections really helped. But, they changed the tire for this year. I tested the car with the old tire at Sonoma Raceway with their setup, and the car was phenomenal. It’s a top-contending car – that’s for sure. But, we have a lot to learn.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. Bob Chapman