Rodrigo Baptista gains ground in overall Drivers’ Championship
GRANTSVILLE, Utah – Throughout the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX finale during the Grand Prix of Utah, K-PAX Racing showed signs of dominance at Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC). In Rounds 9 & 10 of SprintX competition, the team earned pole position – even locking-out the front row in the event opener. Ultimately, the team’s two-car effort fought to three top-five finishes for the weekend.
“We had a tough weekend,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “The cars were fast, and we sat on the front-row. But, it was a great recovery today. To have Andy [Soucek] start from pit lane and to have Max [Soulet] get pushed out toward the back in the beginning of the race, we’re really proud with coming home with fourth and fifth place. The cars were so close, so it was good for Rodrigo [Baptista] to get those points, and we look forward to the final race in a few weeks.”
During Saturday’s qualifying session, K-PAX Racing’s two Bentley Continental GT3s were able to showcase their speed at UMC’s fast 14-turn, 3.048-mile course. Álvaro Parente, who set the series’ qualifying track record of 1:47.492 in 2016, recorded the fastest time of the session with a 1:48.271. Baptista was nearly two-tenths of a second from pole position with his best time of 1:48.498. The two gave K-PAX Racing the front-row in the event-opener.
The No. 3 and 9 car led the 14-car field into the green flag. Parente and Baptista maintained their 1-2 standing for the first 10 minutes of the 60-minute race. However, an issue with the anti-lock braking system on the No. 9 car eventually forced the team to make repairs in the garage. Baptista claimed the top-spot until the driver-change, where an electrical issue hindered a quick exit.
While the No. 3 worked its way to a fifth-place finish in the SprintX Pro class, the highlight of the race came in the last 10 minutes. The No. 9 crew made the necessary repairs to get the Continental GT3 back out with the focus of recording a fast lap for the finale. Soucek, who was behind the wheel in the final stint, earned pole position in his final lap with a 1:49.409.
“I was very disappointed to see Álvaro have trouble with the braking system,” Soucek said. “Once we were out of the race, we had to go for the fastest lap. The mechanics did a great job just fixing the issue, because it wasn’t that easy. We had a limited amount of time [to record the fastest lap]. I went out, I looked for space and got a bit of traffic which was unfortunate. But, I could do a few bankers – really good laps close to 1:49.500. At the very end, I did a perfect third sector and did a 1:49.400 which was enough for pole.”
K-PAX Racing managed to secure pole position for the finale, but a technical infraction prevented the team from fulfilling the honor. While the No. 9 started at the back of the pack, the No. 3 started fifth (third in class) on the revised grid.
Soulet, who started the race in the No. 3, was involved in an incident at the drop of the green flag and as a result, dropped back to ninth overall (sixth in class). Soulet managed to save the car and stay on-track, and from there he said the focus shifted to playing catch-up.
“I believe I got hit by the Lamborghini in the first corner which almost spun me around, but then I got hit by another car that put me back on the road,” Soulet said. “I lost like five or six places, so the aim from there was to just catch the cars in front of me. I had used tires from the start because we kept the new tires for Rodrigo so he could really push in the final stint. So, with the old tires there really was nothing I could do after passing three or four cars. I think we could have been up there.”
Soulet battled the field to fifth in his class before handing the car off to Baptista. In this time, Soucek managed to pick-off drivers until he was behind Soulet. The two K-PAX Racing crews executed a quick pit-stop, and within the proceeding 10 minutes, climbed to fourth and fifth in their class.
“It was the right time to pit for Álvaro because he could under-cut some of the other drivers,” said Soucek, whose tires were falling off toward the end of his stint. “We finished fifth after his mega stint. He was fast throughout his entire stint until he was stuck behind Rodrigo, who was also really fast. We had matching lap times, and it’s also difficult to overtake another Bentley when you’re behind one because of the aerodynamics. Rodrigo needed the points more than us for the championship, so it was the right thing to do by not risking it.”
K-PAX Racing added two more top-five finishes to their total in the finale. Notably, Baptista gained leverage in the PWC Drivers’ Championship. Baptista, who is ranked fourth in points, extends his lead from fifth place by 33 points. Law said with both cars running side-by-side in the finale, that there was “a ton of teamwork, and everyone was respectful about their driving out there today.”
Law went on to express his appreciation for Soucek and Soulet, who helped the team in its first season with Bentley. Both Soucek and Soulet have been Bentley factory drivers since 2015.
“They’ve been so good to work with and so helpful to us,” Law said. “It’s been great to know them, and we appreciate all their support and insight they gave us on the Bentley. We really enjoyed racing with them. We’ll see what the future holds.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC, Race 2 – 5th) – “It was a race we could have won. We lost because of the technical issue. It’s just very disappointing for the whole team. It was a bad day.”
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC, Race 2 – 5th) – “It was the last race of the season, and I wanted to finish on a high. It looked good, but I can’t believe what happened. I’ve been trying to stay positive for every race, but it comes to a point when you don’t know what you can do better. It’s frustrating because the pace is there, the drivers are doing a great job, the team is working hard. There was always something that prevented us from winning. We finished fifth from the pits which isn’t bad, but if you can win a race you can’t accept fifth as a good finish.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 4th) – “We gained some positions during the pit-stop, and it was a good race. We started almost from the back so we gained some positions. We still need to improve the car. Max is a great driver and as a Bentley factory driver, it was a pleasure to race with him. I learned a lot with him in the same car because we could compare the same data and setups. It’s really nice to have a great driver by my side.”
Max Soulet – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 4th) – “I believe I got hit by the Lamborghini in the first corner which almost spun me around, but then I got hit by another car that put me back on the road. I lost like five or six places, so the aim from there was to just catch and catch the cars in front of me. I had used tires from the start because we kept the new tires for Rodrigo so he could really push in the final stint. So, with the old tires there really was nothing I could do after passing three or four cars. I think we could have been up there.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 122 podiums, 51 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.
For more than a decade, Opti-Coat has been setting the industry standard with their unique coating technologies developing and manufacturing proprietary resins utilizing Silicon Carbide (SiC) chemistry. Opti-Coat’s purpose is to provide clients with a product that is the most durable, innovative and protective coating available.
K-PAX Racing PR
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