K-PAX Racing may have clinched a Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Championship – three titles across the board for two of its core drivers, the team and for Lamborghini in its first year of partnership – but it did not divert the newly crowned champs from bringing an equally as motivated program to “Racing Capital of the World.” The team entered its traditional two-car Huracán GT3 EVOs in the Indianapolis 8 Hour, with extended three-driver line-ups that welcomed two Lamborghini Factory Drivers to a total K-PAX Racing-Lamborghini effort.
K-PAX Racing was a part of the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli (IGTC) stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earning a top-10 and having led early in an endurance race off the traditional 90-minute format the team competes in with the sister GT World Challenge America series. While K-PAX Racing was able to help last year’s drivers stay in the title hunt in IGTC, this season became an opportunity for the team to not only secure a one-two finish in the GT World Challenge America standings, but also challenge and complement a proven team in endurance racing with a new manufacturer for eight hours of action. The team was a part of a record-setting 41-car field to take center-stage, and in eight hours, earned a third-place finish and a top-10. Indy is the 24th track stateside where the team has recorded a podium performance.
“What a way to close-out this year,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “We not only won the Drivers’, Team and Manufacturers’ Championship in GT World Challenge America, but we also came into this race thinking we would do well with the right line-up and right crew. To persevere through punctures, pit-stops and damage from other cars to third against some of the best GT3 drivers and teams in the world is something to be really proud of. The team, drivers and crew did an awesome job. It was a great way to end our season.”
The performance specifically by the No. 6 of Corey Lewis and Giovanni Venturini secured K-PAX Racing a one-two finish in the GT World Challenge America Drivers’ Championship (234 points). The finish by this season’s driver core is a first for the team, as it has not previously finished both of its cars at the top of the standings in its history.
“To deliver [a one-two finish in the Drivers’ Championship] to K-PAX Racing, especially coming in with a new manufacturer – putting both in the top-spot of the Championship – it was phenomenal. Again, I’m super proud of the effort everyone put into this, and we’re looking forward to 2021.”
The 2.439-mile, 14-turn “roval” offered some different features from last season’s layout, and Mother Nature posed a greater challenge – belts of scattered rain created a wet track surface, while race conditions were dry – hindering the team from compiling valuable data from track-time to use in the eight-hour. However, K-PAX Racing advanced to the Pole Shootout as two of the quickest 15 cars in the field on Saturday. The No. 3, piloted by Jordan Pepper, Andrea Caldarelli and Mirko Bortolotti recorded a combined qualifying time of 1:34.641, which was third-fastest in the overall field. The No. 6, shared by Lewis, Venturini and Marco Mapelli, averaged 10th best with a 1:35.664. Bortolotti and Mapelli entered the Pole Shootout in their respective cars, ultimately positioning their cars 11th (1:34.376) and 14th (1:34.903) on the grid.
Pepper and Lewis started the race mid-pack – a mixed field of 39 cars. While an endurance format would promote conservative racing in the early stages, there were fierce battles across the field in the opening sequence. The No. 3 was able to advance into the top-10, 8th overall, before a right-front puncture forced an early pit. The No. 6, which eventually saw the top-10 as well in 10th, suffered a punctured left-rear. Both the team’s Huracán GT3 EVOs were initially off-sequence with pit windows, but it would wholly create upward movement through the field. Pepper made the swap for Caldarelli in its second stop, and he would advance to seventh overall an hour and a half into regulation. A safety car about 20 minutes later regrouped the field, which opened up the door for Caldarelli to successfully put the No. 3 in class podium position, fourth overall.
Bortolotti continued the K-PAX Racing surge to the halfway mark, picking up the one overall spot for an outright podium, thereon creating more than a 15-second cushion from fourth. Simultaneously, he continued to push the pace to chip away at nearly a 30-second gap to second. A spin from second position with roughly 15 minutes to the halfway point helped Bortolotti cut that deficit in half. The No. 3 pit six minutes shy of the midway mark for a regular pit-stop, putting Pepper back in the seat – undercutting the gap to about 14 seconds. The second-place car, on a different strategy, pit which made way for the No. 3. Meanwhile, the No. 6 made the switch from Venturini to Mapelli and continued its campaign hovering inside the top-10.
Pepper needed to bridge about a 12-second gap for the lead. A stop-and-hold, 30 second penalty however covered the gap, giving K-PAX Racing its first lead of the race. A safety car regrouped the field, and on the restart, Pepper pulled forward to a one-second gap until a safety car encouraged most of the field to pit that lap – the No. 3 and the second-place car pitting one lap later. Pepper refiles into the field in sixth, where he was tasked to maneuver around back-markers to regain track position. The third and fourth place competitors were halted momentarily in their run through traffic, giving way for now fifth-place Pepper to close the gap. Pepper would keep a steady pace before passing the car off to his championship-winning counterpart, Caldarelli, with about two hours remaining in regulation.
Caldarelli saw the No. 3 up seven positions from its starting spot in the closing hours of the race – fourth in class and in the overall, with a safety car helping create an opportunity to recover ground. The No. 3 settled into fifth nearing the seven-hour mark, less than five seconds from fourth and 13 from the leader. He recovered fourth, and damage to the leading car helped put K-PAX Racing back on the podium and into the pits for Bortolotti. The No. 3 restarted in sixth, and an incident with two competitors in that sequence allowed Bortolotti to advance into the top-five (fourth in class), and Mapelli to climb into seventh (sixth in class). Mapelli opted to pit for tires – reentering the field in ninth – and in that time, Bortolotti would be a beneficiary of a drive-through penalty assessed to the leader.
An additional drive-through penalty was given to a competitor, which was enough for Bortolotti to pick up another position – fourth with less than 20 minutes remaining. He passed an out-of-class competitor for an overall podium spot. K-PAX Racing matched its best finish in an Intercontinental GT Challenge sanctioned American eight-our event, placing third. The No. 6 also recorded a top-10 overall, however placed third – first in class – among GT World Challenge America contenders.
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 3rd) – “It was a good result for the team – a podium we were fighting all race to achieve. After the first puncture in the beginning, we thought it was going to be quite hard. Then we recovered little by little. At the end, a nice third place finish is good for the team being the first race with K-PAX Racing and Lamborghini in Intercontinental GT Challenge. It’s a start to hopefully a long collaboration together into next year. I think the team did a very good job all week. It was a hard race to prepare for against the European teams. We showed that we were always there to the end, fighting, and that was the most important thing. We were definitely very consistent, but unfortunately contact with a GT4 at the beginning of my stint put a fender out, making the car really difficult to drive during the entire stint. I was scared we were going to get a puncture, but luckily I was able to make it.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 3rd) – “We knew we had to go to war with these guys today – Audi and Ferrari were in a different league a bit. I’m proud of the team for giving us a great car to fight with. It sucks to lose a win by something out of our control. I’m super proud and tomorrow when I wake up and see that we were third, I think I’ll be really happy. It was a good way to end the season, though I would have oved to win this one – especially after last season. We gave it a fair fight, and I did everything I could in the car.”
Mirko Bortolotti – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 3rd) – “I just tried to get the maximum out of the car like I usual do, and that’s how I approach races like these. I’m really happy with what we achieved today – really happy with our performance and my performance. We didn’t have any major mistakes, so the whole team can be happy with this third place. If we looked into it at the end of the day, the crucial part was the pit-stop with the red flag – things could have gone completely different. But it was not in our position and on our side, we did everything we could.”
Giovanni Venturini – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 6th) – “It was a really nice season for the team at the end. We clinched first and second place in the Drivers’ Championship, and K-PAX Racing helped Lamborghini to a Manufacturers’ Championship. I have to say ‘Thank you’ to everyone for their effort and to Squadra Corse. I hope to be with the team next year to achieve more great results.”
Corey Lewis – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 6th) – “[Finishing second in the GT World Challenge America Championship] is exactly what we set out to do – to not only finish one-two for the drivers, but also take care of the team and manufacturer. We were able to check off all those boxes this year, so it’s a homerun on many levels. It was great to wrap that up, and it was a heck of a weekend. We had a little bit of a setback early-on with the tire puncture and then going a lap down, which was tough to recover from. I don’t know the ruling behind the pit closure, but I think we would have been back on the lead lap – a potential for a top-five or even a podium. The car was definitely strong, and Gio [Venturini] and Marco [Mapelli] did an awesome job over the course of the weekend and especially in the race. It was a pleasure driving with them, and it was a pleasure being a part of the team this year. Maybe we can continue on for the future.”
Marco Mapelli – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 6th) – “It was definitely a tough weekend, but I’m happy the team tried everything to get the car to work better throughout the week. We just couldn’t find it, so we tried to push and do our best in the race – getting the maximum from the car without any mistakes. Strategy-wise, we were a bit unlucky, so we lost some positions in the end but with our pace, we couldn’t aim for the race win. At least we finished, and the guys did a great job.”
Source. K-Pax Racing