K-PAX Racing, which has made diligent steps toward new beginnings with its expanded effort into the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup, will make its long-awaited 2020 season debut July 25-26 at Autodromo di Imola (Italy). The team’s firm step into Europe marks its official arrival into a new series under the SRO umbrella, despite a brief appearance during the its official test days in March, which was cut short by the increasing restrictions from COVID-19 seen worldwide.
“This is a new chapter for K-PAX Racing’s storied history,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “Jim Haughey has been a great supporter of the World Challenge Series in the U.S. and has proven the ability of the team time and time again with multiple championships and wins here in the US, we feel we are ready to step up to the next level.”
“The SRO GT3 Championship is the top level of GT3 racing worldwide, and this is where the best teams and drivers compete. We realize this is going to be quite a bit different for us, but we are up for the challenge. We have the experience, the drivers and the support from Bentley Motorsport and can’t wait to start the 2020 season.”
K-PAX Racing, following cadence of its initial plans announced in January, will field two Bentley Continental GT3s – three drivers to each car to meet the requirements of the Endurance Cup race format. The No. 9 will be piloted by Álvaro Parente, Andy Soucek and newcomer Jordan Pepper. The No. 3 will be shared by Rodrigo Baptista, Maxime Soulet and first-year team driver Jules Gounon.
“It is going to be a strange feeling within the paddock, with all the COVID-19 protocols and also the fact that we will have no fans, but I think we can be thankful that we are able to get back to work and doing what we love,” Pepper said. “it’s up to all of us now to keep it safe so we can continue doing so.”
The California-based team has competed under the World Challenge moniker since 2007, exclusively in the North American region. With the exception of one endurance race which was held out of the United States (Sepang 12 Hours, 2016), K-PAX Racing has built its legacy stateside, having made appearances in 213 World Challenge races ahead of the 2020 season.
While excitement revolves around the two-car K-PAX Racing effort and the team’s determination to bring its proven operation to Europe, the anticipation did not come without caution. The team, which emphasizes the importance of the well-being of its staff, was tasked with entering the country safely amid the current travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team followed standard health protocols (social distancing, requiring masks during travel), while gaining entry by a provision for entities that are essential to the operation of European businesses.
“We do not take the corona virus lightly and have discussed the situation of traveling to Europe with our team many times,” Law said. “We feel we have put all of the proper precautions in place and have a strict protocol for our organization. The SRO has also been very proactive in its approach, and we are confident that we have done everything we can do to keep everyone safe.”
The GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup season opener will feature a three-hour contest around the 3.050 mile, 21-turn circuit. The green flag drops at 7:30 a.m. ET / 1:30 GMT
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m very happy to continue with K-PAX Racing, Jim [Haughey] and all the crew. We work very well together, and we have achieved great success in the past. We will do everything we can to keep that going in the future. We have a big challenge in front of us – one of the most competitive championships in the world and the whole team racing in Europe for the first time. Unfortunately, with a bit less preparation that we would have liked due to this pandemic around the world, we could not test so will be a tough challenge. I’m motivated as ever. We have a great team and great teammates, so I’m really looking forward to get started.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It’s going to be my second time at Imola, and funny enough, I won the Formula 2 Championship there back in 2009 – actually locking up the championship with two races remaining. It’s been 11 years since, but it was a special moment and Imola will always be in my heart. I don’t remember the track as well, but a little with the cornering. The references with the GT3 will be different.
I am super excited to be driving again in eight months – Kyalami last year – so it’s been a long time, waiting for this moment to come. To be racing this season with K-PAX Racing, a team that has given me so many opportunities, good moments and memories in the U.S. – especially last year once once again this year with Álvaro [Parente] – is going to be something special. But, we need to be very honest. We haven’t been able to do any new testing since COVID-19 as a U.S. team, while most of the European teams have been able to test. So, we start slightly on the back-foot. Nevertheless, we will give it our all to be at the level we need to be. The most important thing is to see how the car works at Imola, because it’s a bit of an unknown for everyone. This is the first time for the car at this track, and during the practice and paid testing sessions, we need to do the best job possible in setting the car up so we have a solid base for qualifying and the race. The new format in terms of endurance racing will obviously have some challenges, but the drivers are very experienced and we will do our best.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m really excited to get back to competition. We have been all so excited about the debut of K-PAX Racing in Europe, and the fact that we have had to delay the 2020 campaign has been tough. However, I spent my lockdown time very wisely, spending loads of time racing and representing the team in the virtual world and making sure my batteries are recharged fully and ready to go all-in for this compressed season.
Imola will be new to me as well as the team and the Bentley, so we have our work cut out, but I feel with the package we have, there is no reason why we won’t be able to fight for a podium come Sunday. I’m really eager and ready to get to work with my amazing crew and my two super-fast teammates, Andy [Soucek] and Álvaro [Parente]. It’s going to be an amazing year ahead of us and just excited to get the GTWC season underway this weekend at the legendary Imola circuit.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I am very pleased to say we finally we will be able to race back together with my guys in the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3. Last race was in Vegas last year – can you imagine that? This will be a whole new experience for all of the team, but I think we are more than ready to do this and to race equal with the European teams. Imola it’s a very famous race track in Italy, for the good and the bad – especially for Brazilians because it was where Ayrton Senna died back in 1994. I did some simulator and put some laps together just to have the line in mind, but I don’t think shouldn’t be a problem. I know it’s very hot in Italy right now and we are expecting some heavy rain for Friday and Saturday. Hopefully we can race Sunday on a sunny summer day in Europe and put together a great show for K-PAX Racing and SRO.”
Maxime Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m really happy to be in the car, especially with K-PAX Racing. I had a lot of fun, good memories with them. I know the guys had a hard time coming to Europe during these difficult times, but I’m glad everyone made it. I’m looking forward to getting back into the car, though I know it’s going to be a difficult one with no testing. But they know exactly what they’re doing. I’m not worried one bit because of it, and I know we’re all pumped-up for this first race. It’s going to be a learning step, but we’re going to give it 100 percent.”
Jules Gounon – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m really excited to be racing with K-PAX Racing this week – finally we’re back racing. It’s been a long and tough road, but we’re really glad all the K-PAX Racing guys got to Europe safely. Fingers crossed that we’ll have a strong performance this weekend.”
Source. K-PAX Racing