If there was a word Andrea Caldarelli wanted to use to describe the Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS season-opener at Sonoma Raceway, he hoped it was going to be “fun.” Caldarelli, who longs for the fierce battles that the series offers, got what he asked for – a highly heated finale, where he helped the team chase down a sweep of the first two rounds.
K-PAX Racing completed the feat by finishing its No.1 Huracán GT3 EVO at the top of both race charts by a convincing margin, which is reminiscent to last season’s season-opener at Sonoma. Its sister-car, the No. 3 Huracán GT3 EVO, guided the success of two drivers making their team debut. The team’s performance was highlighted by three podiums. The back-to-back Sonoma sweep is the first time since 2012-2013 the team has swept the same event (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course) in consecutive seasons.
“What a great way to start the season,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “It was such a strong run for K-PAX Racing, winning both races in the Pro category while also adding another podium today. To have both cars on the podium today is phenomenal.”
“It feels great to sweep the races, especially opening weekend at our home track. [This event] is very important to us because we spend a lot of time here. It was a great run for the team.”
Both the K-PAX Racing Huracán GT3 EVOs shared a starting position inside the podium, the No. 1 qualifying second on the grid and the No. 3 third. The green flag waved in the 20-car mixed field down the front-stretch for 90-minutes of action, and Caldarelli and Giacomo Altoè quickly found themselves defending their position. Caldarelli was able to retain second, while Altoè settled into his stint at the four-spot but still on the Pro-class podium. Within the first 10 laps, Caldarelli and the lead car were split by no more than three-tenths of a second, while the two broke away from the field by about a 10-second gap. The increasing margin was in-part because of Altoè, who engaged in a fiery string of battles to recover third – allowing the top-two to battle for the lead.
Caldarelli found his shot heading into the 18th lap, at about the half-hour mark. His hot pursuit to the leader closed the gap to about one-tenth by that time, and he was in position to strike. While he was unable to complete the pass, the ensuing mandatory driver change became the turning point for K-PAX Racing.
The leader and Caldarelli entered the pits together, the No. 1 swapping the seat to Jordan Pepper. The No. 1 crew elected to strategically use a “joker” pit-stop, a one-second allowance while conducting the stop (offered once per event weekend). Simultaneously, the team vying for the lead encountered issues during its sequence. The No. 1, with Pepper starting his stint, officially took the lead at the conclusion of the pit window and opened-up about a seven-second advantage. The No. 3 made the swap for Misha Goikhberg, which was able to regain podium position.
“We had that option (joker pit-stop), and the cars were equal enough on-track,” Law said. “So, having a good pit-stop was going to make all the difference in putting us out-front for the second-half of the race.”
A full-course caution regrouped the field heading into the final half-hour of the race, but the restart did not shift the team order. Pepper recouped his seven-second lead, while Goikhberg enjoyed roughly a five-second separation from fourth. Both would ultimately finish in that order, with the No. 1 crossing the line by about a 20-second margin of victory. The No. 3 was also represented on the podium in the Pro class. Like the first round, Caldarelli earned the CrowdStrike Fast Lap with a 1:37.208.
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 1st) – “It’s true. I wanted some fun and got it. It was 45 minutes of chasing, but I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find enough space to overtake. I tried to save the tires at the end. I had more pace, but it was very tough to overtake. I really wanted to take some big risks. But it was all in good fun. We knew we wanted to make the pass during the pit-stop with our strategy, and that’s what happened – all according to plan.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 1st) – “It was a great call by the team (pit strategy). Even if the other car didn’t have problems, I still think we would have beat them because we did a mega pit-stop. It was just about conserving the tires in the beginning, then we got the safety car and after, I pushed. I had fun, and it was an incredible car. The guys did a great job. I can’t thank the team enough.”
Giacomo Altoè – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 3rd) – “I really enjoyed this race, and it was quite the show out there. The level of this championship is very high, so to get the position, you really need to fight hard. The car today was flying. Thank you to the team and to Misha [Goikhberg], who did a great job. I’m sure we can continue to improve.”
Misha Goikhberg – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 3rd) – “It was interesting for me to jump in there at the end – I haven’t done that in a long time. We got up to pace but struggled a little bit on [tire] pressures after the yellow. But once we picked up pressure toward the end, we were quick and easily hung on to third. Giacomo did a great job handing the car off to me in a good place. We’re taking it race-by-race, learning and building.”
Source. K-Pax Racing