Several teams within the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Championship are looking to catch their stride in the final stretch of the season, but it had been K-PAX Racing getting the most out of the ninth round of action Saturday at Watkins Glen International. The team earned its seventh victory – its sixth from pole position – setting the tone early.
“It was a solid run for those two guys,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “From pole to win, fastest lap of the race — Jordan [Pepper] and Andrea [Caldarelli] have been a great pair. Jordan called over in the first stint that the car was mega. I’m really proud of that whole group.”
K-PAX Racing, leading the championship in all three categories (Drivers, Team, Manufacturers) was off to a steady start on a damp, but drying 11-turn, 3.4-mile Watkins Glen circuit during the morning qualifying sessions. Using valuable data and track-time from last week’s test and Thursday’s practice session allowed the team to bring a strong two-car Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO package to The Glen, notably scoring a double pole.
“As we’ve said before, this being the first season with Lamborghini, we’ve had a big learning curve coming from what we had the last three years,” Law said. “Lamborghini has been phenomenal to work with — their engineering group from Italy has been on the phone with us every week. It just speaks to how much work we’re putting in, and the results are showing. We’re continuing to build our points for this Championship.”
The No. 3 of Pepper and Caldarelli went back-to-back as the fastest driver of their sessions – Pepper recording his fast lap early in an abbreviated first session (1:46.618) and Caldarelli climbing the board on the final lap in the second (1:44.628). The No. 6 sister-car of Corey Lewis and Giovanni Venturini helped close out the top-row of the grid – Lewis posted a second-best lap (1:47.251) while Venturini will start third in class / seventh overall (1:45.200) in the finale. The two poles give K-PAX Racing seven poles of the season – the team capturing pole in 70 percent of the races this season. Both K-PAX Racing cars have closed-out the front row for the third race this season (Sonoma Raceway, Round 1; Circuit of The Americas, Round 3).
The two team Huracán GT3 EVO successfully led the way for a clean 15-car start, but while Pepper enjoyed the clean air ahead, Lewis was battling to stay on the podium. While Pepper benefitted from the battling directly behind him, allowing him to open-up an early gap, it hindered Lewis as he dropped back to third before a full-course yellow reset the field and its margins. A surging second-place competitor car quickly went on the offensive during the restart, challenging Pepper for the lead within the first 15 minutes of the race. Pepper not only defended his position, but also recorded the fastest lap of the first-half (1:46.161) and built a comfortable six-plus second lead. Lewis maintained third position but was one of two cars on an alternate pit strategy than the rest of the field, pitting one lap later.
Caldarelli, the closer for the opener in the No. 3, rebuilt the lead to eight seconds within the first few laps of his turn behind the wheel. Venturini, who tapped in for Lewis in the No. 6, continued to battle on the podium bubble, eventually settling into fourth with a comfortable split from the overall field.
The No. 3 used its sizable gap to manage the pace for the remaining half-hour of the race, taking the checkers by a 9.391-second margin of victory. For the fourth time this season, the No. 3 set the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap of the race (sixth among Pro competitors) – this time, a 1:45.781 posted by Caldarelli. The victory also gives K-PAX Racing at least one victory in each event this season. The No. 6 crossed the line fourth in class (eighth overall), experiencing some issues throughout the race.
“Giovanni was calling over the radio saying that he had some handling issues and that he couldn’t push,” Law said. “The goal was just to stay out and hope that another car ahead of us had an issue so we could gain points. At least we came home with fourth-place points. Those guys are so good, and we’ll have it sorted.”
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “Jordan [Pepper] did a very good job in the beginning to make a comfortable gap, so we weren’t too stressed when we came out (after the driver change). I really wanted the fastest lap so I really pushed the first two or three laps. The car felt good and we didn’t have too much trouble — just a little at the end with the pick-up. Other than that, I’m very happy with the improvements we made as a team — a nice comeback after Road America, where we didn’t feel great.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “The key was to make sure we had a smooth start, and also on the restart, have a smooth one to the bus stop chicane before the BMW. Then I knew our car was very good from that point. Once I achieved that, I just out my head down, kept consistent — not ultimately as fast as I could have gone, but pulled a nice gap for Andrea [Caldarelli].”
Giovanni Venturini – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th) – “We started on the front row and had some issues during the race, but the guys are working hard for tomorrow. It’s a long race and hopefully our pace will be better than today. We’ll see.”
Corey Lewis – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th) – “It was a tough day – started out promising from our front row starting position. But we as a team will figure out the problems we’ve been experiencing. We’ve been working so hard, and I know we will continue to do so, never give up – tomorrow is another day and another chance to rebound and end this weekend on a positive note.”
Source. K-Pax Racing