K-PAX Racing is faced with a challenging but rewarding task within the next week, preparing for an across the world excursion for two of the season’s most anticipated endurance races in the month of October. The team, which has maintained an American-based operation while firmly stepping into Europe – all within World Challenge – will first continue its inaugural European tour by getting a first look at the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa circuit with the series’ test days, followed by a detour back stateside to help extend the championship hopes for three of its drivers in Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli (IGTC).
While K-PAX Racing has been challenged by logistical limitations seen worldwide, its determination to bring its championship-caliber program to multiple continents has no bounds. The team has tirelessly persisted on its debut season in GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup, while maintaining its presence stateside by announcing its participation in the IGTC Indianapolis 8 Hour October 2-4. While locations have spread the team across the globe, the team will also have to race against the clock to prepare its Bentley Continental GT3 fleet on both sides of the globe within a week’s time.
“This season has presented a lot of challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic – schedules have changed timing of events, they have been condensed but the determination of the K-PAX Racing team and the support of Jim Haughey has been amazing,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “The goal to compete on a worldwide level is a challenge in itself, but add in the Spa test and Indy race during the same week on two different continents really shows the motivation and determination this team has. It has really presented a logistical challenge, so proper planning has been the key. There was a lot of thought that went into who goes where and when and how we run the cars based on the schedules for both events. We have a lot of great people who are all very competent that we trust to get it done right, I just hope there are no flight delays.”
The team will strategically split crew members, principals and engineers across the Spa 24 Hours official test sessions held on September 29-30 in Belguim, while having the remainder of its team preparing for Indy. The No. 9 will participate in the official test days at Spa, with drivers Álvaro Parente, Andy Soucek and Rodrigo Baptista leading the charge. Bentley-works and team drivers Maxime Soulet, Jordan Pepper and Jules Gounon will forego the test sessions for a full-week in Indianapolis in the No. 8, chasing not only its second consecutive victory in IGTC, but also setting their sights on building a greater buffer in the series’ Drivers’ Championship.
While much of K-PAX Racing will be divvied between two nearly-concurrent events, some crew members will be on double-duty, assisting the team for both. The No. 3, which will not be occupied during the official test days in Belgium, will have the chance to stretch its legs in a second testing opportunity at Spa, scheduled for October 20.
Though the team has yet to officially enter the TOTAL 24 Hours of Spa in its history until this season, its participation does not come without prior experience. Not only does the K-PAX Racing roster have a wealth of experience in one of sports car racing’s most prestigious races – all drivers having driven in the race in past years – but team engineers and principals had merged with Bentley Motorsport, playing a major role in the manufacturer’s expanded four-car effort in 2019.
“There is no other GT event in the world like the Spa 24, with over 70 GT3 cars in this race and a good portion of those are factory supported with factory driver line-ups, the competition in intense,” Law said. “We have been working hard this season and learning how to operate in Europe and this has laid the groundwork for us to be able to compete. Last year we sent several of our key personnel from strategy to engineering to mechanical support to the Spa 24 to support Bentley and M-Sport, and we gained experience that was invaluable. We still have a lot to do but we operate at a high level and feel good going into this race.”
The Indianapolis 8 Hour – a new addition to the IGTC schedule in 2020 – will be a new test for K-PAX Racing, but under a familiar race format and series. While Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be the 24th new track nationwide for the team, K-PAX Racing has consecutive appearances in a stateside IGTC eight-hour endurance race (WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, 2017-2018).
“We are really excited to be competing again on our home soil, even if it just of this one event,” Law said. “K-PAX has been racing and winning in the Pirelli World Challenge for over a decade, so we are happy to have the opportunity to represent Bentley in the U.S. again and we hope to give Jules, Max and Jordan a great opportunity to extend their points lead in the Intercontinental GT Championship.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “Preparing for a 24-hour race, we’ve got these two days to try and get a good balance on the car and hopefully a quick balance where we can be competitive and consistent throughout the race. For sure 24 hours is very different from a sprint race, but generally now everyone is pushing the maximum every stint without damaging the car – that is the objective. Let’s see if we can have two good test days and prepare for the race the best we can. The weather normally is a factor at Spa, especially at the time of the year of the race. Let’s see if we can prepare as best as we can.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “The weather looks quite rough for the test, but if it rains, that would be good preparation as well. That time of the year, there is a good chance for a wet race – like last year. We know we do not have the best opportunity in the rain with our car, but that’s why we need to work on that scenario. Testing is crucial so we can find the best setup for the race. It will be a good reference point to see where we are compared to others during this official test, but teams usually hide quite a lot during this type of test. So, we’ll have to see where we are exactly come race weekend, but in any case, we’ll try to maximize the track time, do as many laps as possible and try different setups we’ve learned after Imola and Nürburgring.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m very excited to go back to Spa after driving last year with M-Sport. The race didn’t go the way we would have liked, but we did a lot of practice so I at least know the track and car heading into this season’s event. I’m very confident with the Bentley Continental GT3 at Spa, especially with K-PAX Racing. They have done a great job since arriving in Europe, so I think we have a good chance to fight. We have the testing to find the setup and fine-tune the car, and I hope it helps a lot before race week.”
Maxime Soulet – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m ready and happy to continue our IGTC adventure. Jordan [Pepper], Jules [Gounon] and I are in a winning spirit and would like to keep that spirit true to Indy. To do it with K-PAX Racing in the U.S. is going to be even more special, as I’ve personally been racing in the states the last two seasons with the team and have only good memories.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It’s a bit crazy to get back into the focus of IGTC. We left Bathurst as the early championship leaders after winning the 12 Hours, and we really had a strong momentum going forward. You normally always have a big delay for this championship, being the second round traditionally the Spa 24 Hours at the end of July. Since things have changed with COVID-19, it was a bit of a whirlwind situation where Bentley M-Sport withdrew its factory cars out of the championship which we respected as drivers and as a brand. I cannot thank Jim [Haughey] and the rest of K-PAX Racing enough for really stepping in at the 99th minute to run us for this event. In an incredible opportunity and a chance for us to fight for the Drivers’ Championship. It really puts how motivated we are into perspective. I think we’re all grateful and super excited to show what K-PAX Racing can do on home soil in our beautiful Bentley Continental GT3. It will be a new track for me, and I enjoy racing in America and working with K-PAX Racing, so I’m looking forward to to getting back with Maxime [Soulet] and Jules [Gounon]. You cannot underestimate how strong our working relationship is. We work well as a trio and we really maximize our performance when we’re together.”
Jules Gounon – No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 – “We have not been racing with Jordan [Pepper] and Max [Soulet] in seven months, but we are so happy to get back in the same car together, because we’ve all been in different cars with customer teams. We are really excited, and we are motivated that Bentley and K-PAX Racing our giving us a chance in this championship.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo. Drew Gibson