The 2020 race season is nearing a close for K-PAX Racing, but the team’s final stop November 13-15 at Circuit Paul Ricard (Fra.) – coincidentally its first look at overseas competition within GT World Challenge Powered by AWS Endurance Cup – does not come without milestones. While the team had one previous experience in overseas endurance racing, this season marked the team’s first full campaign, which included an abbreviated season of four rounds in its series’ debut.
“It will be nice to close out the season where we initially started this year,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “This is a track we were all looking forward to racing and never got the opportunity. It has been a strange season for everyone having to deal with the pandemic but we are very proud of our effort this year with the move to Europe and we look forward to Paul Ricard as it has been a good track for Bentley in the past.”
Upon the arrival of the two K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3s at its new satellite shop in Germany, the American-originated team began its swift transition ahead of the series official test days at Paul Ricard in mid-March, which was ultimately cut short do to the increasing concern of COVID-19. While the team was unable to set sail around the French circuit along the Mediterranean Sea, the series final round serves as “unfinished business” in its return.
K-PAX Racing has remained undeterred from its goal of competing across two continents, as it has made tracks at circuits across four countries, including Circuit of The Americas (Tex.) in March for the GT World Challenge America season-opener and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Ind.) in October for Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli competition. Circuit Paul Ricard will mark the team’s fourth European country in its 2020 series debut, where the team will look to add to all its successes during an otherwise trying time across the world.
The final round of Endurance Cup will feature a 1,000-kilometer – nearly 622-mile – race to the finish on the 15-turn, 5.791-kilometer (3.59-mile) course. K-PAX Racing has to opportunity to earn at least one top-10 finish in three of the four rounds in 2020, as Nürburgring (Ger.) and most recently the Total 24 Hours of Spa (Bel.) saw the team earn back-to-back top-10 placing in the series field.
“We have really had a good first season,” Law said. “We have had fast cars and some respectable results with a 6th at Nürburgring, and 10th at the 24 Hours of Spa, as well as very quick times in qualifying at several events.”
“This is some of the best GT3 competition in the world. We came into this having to not only learn the how to race in the series but also learn the track setups and needs for the cars. We have some great data now. Coming into this event we have the support of Bentley and their data from previous years, so we hope to close out the year on a high note.”
K-PAX Racing will return to its usual driver line-up for the Endurance Cup finale, with Álvaro Parente, Andy Soucek and Jordan Pepper taking charge in the No. 9, and Rodrigo Baptista, Maxime Soulet and Jules Gounon in the No. 3. The K-PAX Racing roster shares high-points from past seasons at Paul Ricard, as Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek were a part of the Bentley Motorsport victory in 2017. Jordan Pepper and Jules Gounon have had a strong two-year run at Paul Ricard, placing second in 2018 and reaching the top-step under the Bentley banner in 2019.
The weekend will kick-off with practice and qualifying sessions held on Saturday. Coverage for Saturday will begin at 7:00 GMT (11:00 p.m. PT) with the race week’s first practice session, and Sunday’s main race set to start at 10:45 GMT (2:45 a.m. PT). Fans can follow the race weekend at www.gt-world-challenge-europe.com/live.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’ve been to Paul Ricard many times, and it’s a different race-track because there are no gravel traps – it’s all cement. You have a lot of room for exaggeration and mistakes – the wall is very far – and that’s something I do not prefer, because you can take a lot of risks and maybe drivers with less skill and willing to take those risks will take those chances. The track is forgiving, but some of the corners are very interesting and quick. Normally, the Bentley pairs well there, so I look forward to that. It has been a very competitive series, and we’ve been showing that we are there competing for good results, though there has not been a podium yet. We’ve had some very good races, but we’re trying even harder, people notice that we’re there with force, and we’re looking for that high-note at Paul Ricard.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “We are very quickly finding ourselves in the last race of the season and generally, I’m very happy with how the season has gone despite the luck of podiums and top-three results. We’ve continued fighting to get there, and we’ve been very competitive in all of the races, finishing sixth at Nürburgring, being fifth until an incident at Imola, climbing up the order from 56th to 12th at Spa – all of that shows how quick and reliable we are as a group. I’m very pleased with K-PAX Racing’s first year in Europe, and it’s incredible to see a team with no sort of experience in this type of championship doing so well. I’m very proud of everyone.
Paul Ricard is a track that brings back very good memories. I won there in 2017, finished fourth in 2016 despite leading the entire race until the last hour. We’ve been very competitive there every year, so we have very high hopes heading into the last race of the season. People remember how you finish, not how you start. If we can finish on a high, that will be great for all of us – especially in terms of motivation and hype for next season. It’s a track that offers a lot of fight and competition, so we need to be very sharp.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 – “It’s been a really crazy year, and it hasn’t been the easiest year. We had a delayed start and missed a preseason test, and with that in mind, it’s going to be challenging for us because it’ll be the team’s first on-track action at Paul Ricard where everyone else has had loads of experience either from previous years or from the test. But our package is really strong there and I’ve only ever finished on the podium at Ricard – second in 2018 along-side Jules [Gounon] and we managed to take the win in 2019 with M-Sport. We know we have a strong package and how to get going. Like always, our K-PAX Racing crew is going to be ready and fighting. We always bring a strong, competitive package to each race week, and we know we’ll hit the ground running and have that strong package right away. Let’s see if we can finish the season with a much-eluded win that the team has been chasing. I can’t wait to be fighting with Álvaro [Parente] and Andy [Soucek] on Sunday.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I think the K-PAX Racing crew did a great job at Spa, though the result wasn’t what we were looking for. But with the weather and everything, it was super-tricky and challenging, so I thin the whole team did a great job. The car should be great at Paul Ricard. Last year, Bentley Motorsport won and the car always is good there. We have a good chance to fight for the race.”
Maxime Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I’m looking forward to the finale, and we’ve always been fast around Paul Ricard. We (Bentley Motorsport) won there in 2017 and last season. I think it’s going to be the last race for K-PAX Racing in Europe, so we’ll have to finish on a high and show all the hard work we’ve been doing. I’m really looking forward to this week.”
Jules Gounon – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – “I feel our race season has been pretty unlucky so far heading into the last race of the season. We have shown amazing speed every time we’ve been out on-track, but we never got a big result out of it. This is our last chance to get a good result. This is also my last race of the season with the team, so it will be a pretty emotional race. As a Frenchman, to do the last race in France is always nice. Hopefully we can get a good result, as last year we won with Jordan [Pepper] and Steven Kane (Bentley Motorsport). This year, we’ll try to do it with the No. 3 or No. 9.”
Source. K-PAX Racing/Photo Drew Gibson