K-PAX Racing Leads SprintX Pro-Am Points Championship After First Two Rounds - AUSTIN, TexMar. 26 2018
Rodrigo Baptista, Max Soulet capture second podium in the event finale at Circuit of The Americas
K-PAX Racing continued its strong showing in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX opener Sunday by earning another podium in the series’ Pro-Am category at Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet nearly swept the first two rounds of competition in the category – after winning Saturday’s opener – with a hard-fought second-place finish.
“A one-two is a great, great finish for the weekend,” K-PAX Racing Darren Law said. “I am very proud of Rodrigo, who is coming along great at this level. It’s really impressive. Aside from having a podium finish on both days, we will also be coming out of here leading the championship very early in the season. Rodrigo turned the fastest lap of the race for all cars. It shows the potential of him as well as our program.”
After the first two rounds in the SprintX GT Pro-Am Championship, the No. 3 car is leading the title-hunt by four points over the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (48-44). Both Baptista and Soulet maintained a quick pace over the weekend, which positioned them toward the front on the grid in both rounds. The No. 3 started second among Pro-Am competitors in the finale, after recording 2:08.198 in the first round.
Initially, the pair of K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 was set to start fourth and fifth overall in a field of 20 cars. However, both advanced one spot before the drop of the green flag because of an incident on the formation lap that involved a car ahead of them on the grid. For the second round, Bentley factory drivers Soulet and Andy Soucek took the wheel.
Within the first 10 minutes of the 60-minute race, Soulet and Soucek experienced a moment of déjà vu, as the two were again nose-to-tail in the field in fifth and sixth place overall. After falling a few positions from an electrical glitch, Soulet had shown his resiliency shortly after by closing the gap with those in front of him. A pivotal moment in Soulet’s stint came at the 20-minute mark, when he began putting pressure on the two cars ahead of him. He capitalized on a miscue from the sixth-place car in the first turn and reclaimed the spot before the mandatory pit-stop at the halfway mark.
“The two cars passed me when I experienced the electrical issue during the race, and I was not going to let them pull away,” Soulet said. “I fought back, and I just took a chance. It was quite an aggressive move for me, but I enjoy that kind of racing. It was a great move.”
Baptista carried a Pro-Pro pace in his final stint at COTA. Notably, he recorded the fastest lap of the day with a 2:07.679. He said he does not remember when he did it because he was only focusing on advancing toward the front. Both Soulet and Baptista share the mentality of competing at a Pro-Pro level.
“Like I said yesterday, I want to be on the same pace as the Pro guys, and I want to have laps as quick as them,” said Baptista, who achieved that goal in the SprintX opener. “I kept a great pace and did a good lap. I just tried to catch the guy in-front of me, but after five or six laps my tires were gone. Then, I just had to be more careful in the exit of each turn to preserve what was left of the tires we had. To pass the guys who didn’t have the traction, we would have had to get them on the exit of the turns. I was trying, but we could not advance.”
The No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 started fourth overall on the grid. Soucek said the incident in Saturday’s first round affected the grid for the finale. He believed the tires were in a sweet spot at the time, and that the team had built a top-three car for the event on short notice. He did not let that deter him from challenging for the top-spot in Pro-Pro early. On the start, Soucek advanced a couple positions and proceeded to put pressure on the cars in front of him. He also improved his position while considering his teammate in the No. 3 car.
“The first turn is a very sharp corner – if you are stuck on the inside, you need to brake a little earlier in order to make the corner,” Soucek said. “Because I had Max to my right, I decided not to attack too much so I wouldn’t hit him. I did the right thing. Maybe I could have gained some more positions if I risked it, but I think in that situation, it’s better to just get out of the first turn safely.”
Soucek carried a strong pace to the halfway point, contesting for third in the class. Álvaro Parente, who started his stint on used tires, tried to improve with the strategy the team had in place. The No. 9 crossed the finish line fifth in Pro-Pro, and the two believe they can build on their performance in the next eight rounds of SprintX competition.
“We had a strategy planned – to start Andy with a fresh pair of tires and to get me on the scuffed tires,” Parente said. “Maybe a lot of the other guys did the opposite. It was harder for me in the second stint because the cars in front had fresher tires.”
Earlier in the week, the No. 9 car carried a strong pace in practice and qualifying. Parente recorded the second-fastest time in Pro-Pro in Saturday’s qualifying session with a 2:05.751. Ultimately, Parente said that the team is still working on the setup of the Bentley and having the factory drivers on-site for the SprintX race helped the team progress.
“We’ll have to settle for this result, which is not exactly what we were hoping for,” Soucek said. “We’ll take the positive though. We learned a lot this weekend and I think we’ll be fighting for the top-spot in the next SprintX race.”
K-PAX Racing will return to PWC Sprint GT competition for the third round April 13-15 in the Streets of Long Beach. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Álvaro Parente - No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 5th) - “We were able to prove our pace in comparison to the other drivers in general. Unfortunately, we did not really get the result we were hoping for. I did a good lap in qualifying, and I was feeling pretty good with new tires. We’re still learning and working on the setup of the car with old tires. We seemed to struggle a little bit more there with understeer and in slower corners. It was a shame for the guys in the pits. It didn’t go our way, but we’ll keep trying. We’ll see next time if we can do better.”
Andy Soucek - No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 5th) - “In today’s race, I had a really good start. We’ll have to settle for this result, which is not exactly what we were hoping for, but we’ll take the positive though. We learned a lot this weekend and I think we’ll be fighting for the top-spot in the next SprintX race.”
Rodrigo Baptista (Pro-Am) - No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 2nd) - “My stint went well. We had a strong car, and we managed to have great lap times throughout the race. I think we are doing well with staying on the pace of the Pro drivers so far. Max is fast in the Bentley, and I’m looking forward to the next race.”
Max Soulet (Pro-Am) - No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 2nd) - “I think we could have won again and done a little better in the overall than we did yesterday. We lost a little bit of time because of an electrical glitch we had on-track and because one of our tires got stuck on the pit-stop. I think we can be happy with second-place though. We had a strong run at the end, and we just have to carry on like this in future races. Rodrigo and I needed to learn how each other worked this week. I think we did and it’s a great start together. We got along well and it will be great in VIR [VIRginia International Raceway] as well.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 111 podiums, 44 wins, four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class K-PAX has fielded Porsche 911 GT3s during the 2007 – 2008 seasons, Volvo S60s during the 2009 – 2013 seasons, McLaren 12C GT3s in 2014 and McLaren 650S GT3s from 2015 – 2017.
About Bentley Motorsport
Bentley Motorsport is based at the Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe. From there, the operation runs Bentley Team M-Sport, and oversees customer racing operations around the world.
The Continental GT3 is built by the Bentley motorsport team in conjunction with M-Sport. The Bentley Motorsport team is led by Bentley Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush supported by M-Sport’s Chief Engineer, Christian Loriaux.
Bentley Motors’ headquarters in Crewe is home to all of its operations including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s four model lines, Continental, Bentayga, Flying Spur and Mulsanne. The combination of fine craftsmanship, using skills that have been handed down through generations, alongside engineering expertise and cutting-edge technology is unique to UK luxury car brands.
Optimum Polymer Technologies, the manufacturer of Opti-Coat, was founded in Memphis, Tenn., on July 1, 2001 by Dr. David Ghodoussi. Prior to this, Dr. Ghodoussi worked for over 12 years as an Organic Chemist overseeing research and development focused in polymers and automotive paint formulations.
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