SONOMA, Calif. – The 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season proved to be the most successful yet for K-PAX Racing in the GT class.
Against strong competition, the California-based team, with the McLaren 650S GT3 and Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, celebrated the championship trifecta, clinching the Team, Manufacturer, and Driver Championships in the final lap of the final race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In full preparation to defend those titles, K-PAX Racing will return to the Pirelli World Challenge in 2017 with a three-car assault for the second year in a row. The K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 cars will be piloted by the full season entries of Factory Driver Alvaro Parente, and American sports car racer Bryan Sellers in GT, and Mike Hedlund in GTA.
“With the addition of new teams, drivers and GT3 cars in the Pirelli World Challenge, 2017 is going to be tighter and more challenging than ever,” said Team Owner Jim Haughey. “So, we are very pleased to have Alvaro, the returning Driver’s Champion, team up with the very competent Bryan Sellers in GT and Mike Hedlund in GTA.”
Despite being new to the series and unfamiliar with ten of the eleven tracks on the 2016 calendar, McLaren GT Factory Driver Parente was a quick study, capturing five poles and six wins in his opening season. His first win of the season came from a second-place finish at the Long Beach Grand Prix, when a penalization of the No. 3 Cadillac of Johnny O’Connell moved Parente up to the top step.
Even hungrier for his first outright win in the series, Parente returned to the track at Barber Motorsports Park to take his second pole position, win, and double podium of the season. At Lime Rock Park, the Portuguese driver dominated both events, winning both races from the starting position. His season-long battle with Porsche’s Patrick Long and Cadillac’s Johnny O’Connell came down to the final race, resulting in Parente as the victor. Now familiar with the tracks on the Pirelli World Challenge calendar, Parente is poised to be a championship contender from the drop of the first green flag of 2017.
“I’m very happy to be back with K-PAX Racing for this season,” said Parente. “I get along very well with everyone on the team, and feel we all have the same goals and will push hard to win further races. Now that I have experience of the tracks and a strong working relationship with the team, it’s time to attack and fight hard from the start of the season. There are some changes in the championship, and together with the team, I’m sure we will be working hard to have a great 2017! I’m really looking forward to start working with the guys soon and start fighting for those results!”
With a championship to defend, K-PAX Racing made the decision to add another professional driver to the lineup, placing American Sellers to the No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3. Like many of his competitors, Sellers’ racing career began at a young age with go-kart racing, where six years later, he advanced to competition in Skip Barber Racing School. He climbed the open wheel racing ladder from 1999 to 2004 before making his debut in sports car racing as a factory Panoz Motorsports Driver in the American Le Mans Series. In 2009, Sellers became a factory driver with Team Falken Tire, earning six class victories with co-driver Wolf Henzler. For 2017, Sellers will also compete in a full race season in the IMSA United SportsCar Championship with Paul Miller Racing.
“It’s a huge honor to be selected to be a part of K-PAX Racing,” said Sellers. “They have shown over the years that they are extremely committed to performing at the highest level of motorsports. I am very excited to take on the challenges that lie ahead with a car and a series that are new to me. I am very much looking forward to being paired with Alvaro and learning and working with the latest series champion. There will certainly be a target on the team’s back, and there will be big shoes to fill after last year’s achievements, but that is what makes it exciting.”
During the 2016 season, American Mike Hedlund participated in the Sonoma Grand Prix with Flying Lizard Motorsports, competing in the GT Cup class, and earning two podiums. First bitten by the racing bug in 2001 at a high-performance driving school, Hedlund’s racing career started in 2010 when he competed in the 24 Hours of LeMons race at Thunderhill. From club racing to the American Le Mans Series, Hedlund’s career to date encompasses nine-race series and a variety of cars. For 2016, he ran a full season in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA. This year, he will race the No. 98 McLaren 650S GT3 in the GTA class.
“After competing against K-PAX Racing in 2014 and 2015 and watching what they were able to accomplish in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge racing season,” said Hedlund. “I’m excited to join them for 2017 in the McLaren 650S GT3! Being based out of Northern California, I’ve known many of the team members for years and I’m looking forward to finally racing together for an entire season.
“While the McLaren 650S GT3 is a new car for me and that brings its own challenges, the team has more than shown that they know what it takes to build a race-winning car. The Pirelli World Challenge series is fiercely competitive with experienced teams, drivers and cars, but I know we have everything that’s needed to compete at the front of the field. I’ve already had a brief taste of the car in testing and can’t wait for our first race in St. Petersburg, Florida! It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight all season, but we’re up to the challenge!”
The 2017 Pirelli World Challenge will visit many of the same iconic tracks as before, such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with the new addition of VIRginia International Raceway in April. Pirelli World Challenge also announced a new format for the GT and GTS race events, turning the formatting of five of the events into two-driver entries per car in a 60-minute race, called SprintX. Driver lineups for the SprintX races will be announced at a later date.
“We are extremely happy to be returning to the Pirelli World Challenge to defend our titles from 2016,” said Program Manager Darren Law. “We had an amazing season last year and 2017 looks like it will be bigger and more competitive. As for us, we feel we have a very potent driver line up. With several new cars, teams, and drivers coming to the series, I think this might be the most competitive season yet.”
The first event of the season will kick off at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Rounds One and Two of the GT and GTA Championship. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.