K-PAX Racing has made sporadic appearances across the world in its history, and while taking on the challenge of new tracks has always been a goal for the team and a clear vision of Team Owner Jim Haughey, the American brand has been recognized and beloved by fans globally since its humble beginnings. In this year’s 74th running of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, it will again be front-and-center to contest for one of racing’s most coveted titles on arguably the biggest GT racing stages in the world.
“After running this event for the first time in 2020, our goal has always been to come back and compete here again,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “This really is the biggest GT3 race in the world, so it is hard to explain to those that haven’t competed in it. It has so many of the best teams and drivers in the world. It is an amazing track and nowhere else do you have over 60 GT3 cars with almost half of which are factory supported. After our debut in 2020 and coming away with a top-10, we are ready to come back and push for a win this year.”
This time is different. Since its last appearance in 2020, the state of the world and even the K-PAX Racing program has undergone considerable changes. To preface this season’s journey to Spa-Francorchamps, the team’s 2020 debut presented a plethora of challenges even before the drop of the green flag. As the sole American team in contention, the team withstood global resistance during a pandemic, and took the necessary steps to be able to reach Belgium safely and successfully. The team’s aspirations of competing overseas were both undying and relentless throughout the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS calendar and into Spa. They made it. It was a rescheduled Autumn edition of the race, and unique for its 25-hour runtime.
The team submitted its name into the largest, most competitive grid it has seen since its formation in 2007. While the task may have been seen as daunting, especially logistically, the team persevered and its prowess from SRO’s sister series in America shined on a global scale — not only completing the race with both its entries, but also earning a top-10 in the Pro category. The team celebrated its feat, but it also served as motivation to improve in its imminent return.
“As I mentioned before, 2020 was a successful outing for us and it is motivation to come back,” Law said. “We learned a lot that year as anyone would during the first time, and we now have a better understanding of the European rules and procedures. We also have a better understanding strategically, so we are much more prepared this time around.”
K-PAX Racing has since teamed up with Lamborghini Squadra Corse, building its program around the Huracán GT3 EVO. In the year following its debut at Spa, the team returned stateside to be crowned as the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Champions. In its title campaign and debut with Lamborghini, the team was quick on the throttle, winning 11 races in seven events — an eight-hour endurance race at the “Racing Capital of the World” Indianapolis Motor Speedway being one of those victories. While 2021 was virtually perfect, the team has shown even more improvement from last season by sweeping the series’ first three events. The team expects to bring the same professionalism and preparedness that has given them stateside success to Spa.
K-PAX Racing has recruited some of GT3 racing’s most decorated talents for the event: Lamborghini Factory Drivers Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, as well as proven young-star Jordan Pepper to complete the No. 6 Huracan GT3 EVO line-up. Each driver has prior experience in the event, and Pepper joined the team’s first appearance in 2020. K-PAX Racing also welcomes Orange1 to its Spa operation as a pivotal player in this year’s event.
“Being involved with the Lamborghini factory supported program has made this event far less complex,” Law said. “They are providing a lot of support and it takes some of the load off of us coming from the U.S. It is also great to have additional support from Orange1, and they are bringing a lot of guests so we hope we can deliver for them as well.”
Caldarelli will be making his fifth appearance at Spa – more notably his third alongside Mapelli. Mapelli has experienced great success in the event, as he set the fastest racing lap of the GT3 era (2m18.146s) during the 2020 edition. While Pepper has not joined the Lamborghini Factory Drivers just yet, he has taken part in the team’s championship crusade stateside, helping the team to a 2021 title alongside Caldarelli.
“We had a great test here a few weeks ago,” Law said. “The car was fast, and we worked well with the Lamborghini team. It was definitely a tight schedule traveling here immediately following our Watkins Glen event last weekend, but with Lamborghini Squadra Corse here, they were able to start the load-in and set up before we arrived. That has made the transition easier this time around.”
The stage is set.
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “Spa is definitely the toughest and biggest GT3 race in the world. Everyone goes to Spa for one goal and that’s to win. There are so many different situations you can be in between the weather, track conditions, strategies… that’s what makes it special and the reason why I truly love it.
I’ve competed the last three years with Marco [Mapelli], and my first time with Jordan [Pepper] even though we’ve been a driver pairing in America up until the beginning of this year. We’re all different individually, but together, I think we’ll make a great package.
I’m very happy that Orange1 is supporting us this year as well. I’ve been racing with an Orange1 livery for the last five years in this race, so it’s exciting that this year I have the opportunity – this time with new team and different people. The car looks awesome. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful cars on the grid.”
Marco Mapelli – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “This is the hardest GT3 race event in terms of speed and fatigue for the drivers and crew. I’m really looking forward the race with Andrea [Caldarelli] and Jordan [Pepper]. We already worked well during the test days and over some preparation meetings. The team already proved themselves in their abilities as a group and they’ve been working really hard on this event preparation. Here, every small thing makes big difference.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO – “I think Spa in the modern-day of GT3 now is the most competitive worldwide 24-hour, and I’d put it out there as the most competitive 24-hour in general because of the number of Pro entry cars and in other classes as well. It’s so extreme, and it makes the [competition] level so high. Going into my sixth 24 Hours of Spa – my fifth in the Pro class – I hope luck is more on my side. I’ve led the race and been in the hunt, but never finished it leading. We have a great package this year. It’ll be my first time doing it in the Lamborghini, and it should be something very special. I’m back at Spa with K-PAX Racing too, which showed great promise with a 10th place finish in 2020.
All these big endurance races nowadays, the level of drivers is so high, so much where it’s hard to make a difference. So, something I find valuable is your relationship with teammates. The ability to have trust in your teammates is worth more than trying to find one-tenth on the track. You tend to get into a better rhythm – from setup early in the weekend to the race. The relationship I’ve built with Andrea [Caldarelli] over the course of a year-and-a-half – winning the championship in 2021 – we now click very well. We’ve become very good friends off the track and respectable colleagues on it. I think Andrea has that with Marco [Mapelli] which is super important. Andrea is sort of the link between Marco and me. I’ve shared a garage with him in Indy (Indianapolis 8 Hour), but never a car. After the Spa test though, I think Marco and I got on pretty well. The trust is there, and it’s important. It can make the difference against these high-class drivers.”
Source. K-Pax Racing