K-PAX Racing showed both its strength and willpower, as both were tested during the 74th edition of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Withstanding all the challenges presented and on GT3 racing’s biggest stage worldwide, the team completed the full 24-hour duration to an 11th place finish.
“The 24 Hours of Spa is the toughest GT3 race in the world – the teams and drivers that come to this event,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “So, for us to finish where we did, we’re very proud of our effort.”
K-PAX Racing has finished the race with all three of its entries in two appearances in the event (2020, 2022). The team has also been inside the top-15 in a 2020 field of 56 competitors and 66 this year. This year’s driver core, Jordan Pepper, Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, battled the second-largest grid the event has seen in the past two decades in the No. 6 Orange1-backed Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
K-PAX Racing, which was set to lead the field down the front-stretch, was forced to start 30th because of a technical infringement penalty applied before the race. While the decision may discourage others, it visibly motivated the team as it swiftly began to cut through the highly competitive field at the drop of the green flag. Pepper was able to improve to 14th overall within the first hour, and he maintained his steady pace nearing the race’s third hour, where he passed the wheel off to Caldarelli. The Lamborghini factory ace was able to mirror his co-driver’s opening pace to 12th in class.
An early-indicator of the team’s unrelenting surge to the top was Mapelli’s opening stint, as he welcomed closed-quarter battles from the Pro Cup competitors. Mapelli improved to sixth, and in short-time, gave K-PAX Racing its first lead in the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa – the team improving from 30th to first in the matter of four-and-a-half hours. While the steadfast stride planted K-PAX Racing firmly into the conversation of potential winners, a right-rear puncture made the triumph momentary and forced the No. 6 Huracán GT3 EVO to pit.
“After putting together such an amazing effort in qualifying, even though we were forced to start 30th, in the first four hours we were able to work our way up to the lead,” Law said. “It showed the true potential of this program.”
“There were some unfortunate moments during the event, which I think everyone experienced. We had a blowout which set us back, but for the team to push on and persevere after all those challenges to bring home 11th shows the strength of this organization.”
Tire trouble plagued the team through the first round of stints, but the second rotation of stints saw the No. 6 continually improve. Pepper and Caldarelli were able to place the car 14th in class, 16th overall by the 10-hour mark, advancing about 10 positions, before a red flag reset the field. The team was also able to cut down on the deficit, only one lap off the lead lap and dwindling. The team performed a seamless driver change to Mapelli, who reentered the field 19th overall, 15th in class. The field regrouped during safety car conditions nearing the twelfth hour, and on the restart, Mapelli made a quick jump on a Pro competitor. The ascent back to the top-10 continued.
At the halfway mark, K-PAX Racing slowly chipped away at the overall field, advancing to 17th. But this seemed to be the turning point, as the drivers surged again – to 11th overall and in class by the 18-hour mark. K-PAX Racing was on the heels of the top-10 since Mapelli’s opening stint. A lengthy safety car ensued into the 19th hour – a great deal of Pepper’s final stint – halting the field and opportunity to progress into waning hours of the race. Pepper battled to maintain position, while continuing to diminish the gap to 10th.
Through the final driver stints, K-PAX Racing safeguarded the position and while its drivers narrowed the margins, it would ultimately cross the finish line in 11th. The team completed 534 laps.
“We have to thank everyone who helped support this program,” Law said. “Key sponsors such as Orange1 and OMP contributed to this effort. We also need to thank Lamborghini for their partnership and collaboration – everything we did to be able to put this program together. Without all these people and Jim Haughey’s passion for the sport, it would not have been possible.”
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race – 11th) – “It was a bittersweet weekend for us. After qualifying…the Super Pole…and into the race, we wanted more. We started 30th and after four hours, we were leading the race. Unfortunately, two punctures in a row took us off the lead lap. We were very unlucky to not have the chance to get the lap back. However, the team did an amazing job. We knew it was going to be tough with the European competition. I’d like to thank the entire team for their effort, because it is such a challenging race. I’d also like to thank Lamborghini Squadra Corse for the support they have given us this race weekend. Lastly, Orange1 for the support as well.”
Marco Mapelli – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race – 11th) – “We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we finished the race. With nice and proper team spirit, we were all fully committed to a good result. But anything can happen in a 24-hour race. What happened during qualifying and Super Pole was not good for us, but we responded properly. Everyone had a lot of tire degradation and problems, and we had to push hard from our starting position. We were unable to get back the lap we had lost which was really unlucky with the strategy. We didn’t take any track penalties or during the pit-stops, and the car was always in one piece. I think everyone has to be proud of that. Performance wise, we’ll need to regroup so we can improve for next time.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race – 11th) – “A huge thank you to Lamborghini Squadra Corse, K-PAX Racing and Orange1 for their time, investment and effort that went into this race. We showed up in a one-off race, at Spa, against the top GT teams and drivers in the world. We were not there just to make up the numbers. We had an incredible car and an amazing performance. Ultimately, it was unrewarded which is frustrating. Luck just wasn’t on our side, though we had the pace to fight for the victory… even starting 30th after the unjust penalty. We got to the lead and as we got there, the curses of Spa got to us – the first of two punctures, which ultimately set the destiny of our race. Followed by a wrong calling from the race stewards during a red flag procedure that costed us the lap we gained. From there, we just struggled to get back on the lead lap, and full-course yellows didn’t fall our way. That’s how Spa goes sometimes… you can have the package to win and do everything right – no penalties, the pit-stops incredible and strategy on-point – but we were just unlucky. We move on and hopefully return to fight for victory.”
Source. K-Pax Racing/Photo. Xynamic Photography