Defending Champ Parente Opens 2017 with Dominating Victory at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - ST. PETERSBURG, FlaMar. 11 2017
Parente enjoyed a 10-second final margin at the checkered flag, Sellers (5th) and Hedlund (4th in GTA) posted strong K-PAX debuts.
Alvaro Parente started his Pirelli World Challenge title defense in grand style, driving his No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 to a dominating victory to open the 2017 season in the first of two races at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Parente, who qualified third, wasted little time once the green flag dropped to make his move toward the front of the field. He made an outside move to get around pole winner Daniel Mancinelli in turn four after surging past Pierre Kaffer earlier on just the second lap of the race.
“I have to thank McLaren GT, K-PAX Racing, and Jim Haughey for putting together such a strong program,” Parente said. “We had a really good race. I didn’t get a good start, but I passed Pierre when he overshot turn one. I knew the yellow Ferrari had a bad run coming out of turn three. I saw that as a place where I could take advantage, and I got right in there, braked late, and passed on the outside. I managed the whole race from there. It was a great.”
After a full course caution brought the field back together, Parente pulled away from the field on the restart, and never looked back, enjoying a better than 10-second margin by the time the checkered flag fell.
Bryan Sellers also had a strong showing, making his debut in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3. Starting 11th, he pulled off a huge move on the opening lap to vault all the way up into sixth. The jump earned him the Optima Battery Best Start of the Race award.
Sellers would settle in around seventh for most of the day, but had a pair of opportunities on the day's final lap and seized them, earning a fifth-place finish.
"It was a better day today than yesterday," Sellers said. "It’s good to have the first race under my belt. It’s definitely a different world than what I’m used to. All these things ended up being learning curves, and watching, and figuring out everyone’s racing, watching what we need to do going forward. I also realized how important it is and how difficult it is to get that fast lap in for qualifying tomorrow’s race. I admittedly didn’t do a great job at it while staying in the battle the whole time, but it’s a good first day and we’ll see where we end up tomorrow."
In the GTA class, Mike Hedlund cruised his way to a fourth-place effort in the No. 98 McLaren 650S GT3. With drivers facing new road courses, bringing the car into the garage clean for tomorrow's race is just as important as the finishing position.
"It was a really fun race. Our K-PAX Racing McLaren was quick," Hedlund said. "I was a little cautious on the start and restart, which cost me a gap to the other GTA cars. We got some clean air running, and I was able to improve my lap times. We’re not sure yet where we grid up tomorrow, but felt like I had a good lap time.
"Hopefully it was better than my starting position today, and we’ll get the car out of here in one piece."
The second round of the double header weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg goes green on Sunday, March 12 at 3:15 p.m., ET. For live stream and timing and scoring information, visit world-challenge.com.
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 93 podiums, 37 wins and four driver championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In 2014, K-PAX Racing expanded its relationship with McLaren GT, bringing two new 2015 McLaren 650S GT3 race cars into competition. The renewed effort kept K-PAX Racing at the forefront of competition, becoming a serious championship contender in the seasons to follow. In 2016, the team expanded to three full season McLaren 650S GT3 race cars, and clinched the Pirelli World Challenge Team, Driver, and Manufacturer Championships.
About McLaren GT
McLaren has been a pioneer and setting benchmarks on the tracks around the world for 50 years, and the latest range of GT racing models based on the road-going McLaren Automotive range is no different.
McLaren GT was established in 2011 to develop, build and support all GT race activities. Based in Woking, Surrey at the former home of McLaren Racing, the company is responsible for the design, development and production of the 650S GT3, 570S GT4, and 650S and 570S Sprint models.