SALINAS, Calif. – For a third-consecutive season, K-PAX Racing concluded its season with an endurance race – the last two on the doorstep of its Sonoma, Calif. base. The Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours is the longest race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which was familiar territory for the team having competed in the event last season.
The series’ only round in America was the center-stage for some of sports car racing’s premiere teams, and K-PAX Racing was one of the 32 total entries on the grid. In the final outing of the first-generation Bentley Continental GT3 – featuring a commemorative one-off livery – K-PAX Racing finished mid-pack in 11th.
“Overall, I’m really proud of the team,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “We had a challenge running the first-generation Continental GT3 – although the car has been great this season. Álvaro [Parente] put in a stellar qualifying effort, but we just really didn’t have the pace today. We did as best as we could. I’d put our team up against anyone. But, we’re looking forward to next year with the second-generation Continental GT3 and a whole new program.”
K-PAX Racing competed alongside Bentley Motorsports’ fleet of second-generation Continental GT3s throughout the race week, which was an opportunity for the team to get a closer look at its future. M-Sport debuted the second-generation model in America at the California 8 Hours and throughout the season, fielded the cars internationally.
“One of the many great things about our relationship with Bentley is that M-Sport is working with us in this transfer of vehicles,” Law said. “We placed one of our lead engineers with the team, and he was working with the engineers from Bentley – listening-in on the radio and looking at the data – and we also embedded several mechanics within the team, so we got used to the system and these cars. We were training alongside them in true race conditions.”
The No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 recorded the 11th quickest combined qualifying time among its three drivers – Parente, Rodrigo Baptista and Bryan Sellers – advancing to the Pole Shootout. Parente was the quickest Bentley in the shootout, qualifying the No. 9 car 11th with a 1:24.244. Parente, who started the race for K-PAX Racing, said his pace in qualifying was similar to that in the race.
“Even though we have great strategists and we were making all the right decisions – even gaining a few spots during the first stop – there are no miracles in racing,” Parente said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t as quick as we hoped this weekend. It was speed throughout my first stint. We just lacked speed. There are some races like that which is unfortunate, because we tried our best and fought. We all wanted to end the year with a better race, but when it’s not possible, it’s not possible.”
Parente entered pit-lane in 13th position at the end of his first stint, and the No. 9 car emerged from its pit-stop in sixth. The No. 9 Continental GT3 consistently battled for position within the top-five throughout the eight hours, even leading the race near the four-hour mark with Sellers at the helm. Sellers said between the strategy – preserving the life of the Pirelli P Zero tires – and with no driver error, “the result did not reflect the effort.”
“Sometimes, it’s just not quite good enough to get the results you want,” Sellers said. “But, I think we had a pretty solid day in the grand scheme of things – no mistakes, no driver errors, and we were able to trudge along. Unfortunately, the result did not reflect the effort. But, we’ll move ahead and learn from this. The team is looking ahead to the second-generation Continental GT3, so they’ll evaluate this type of circuit to see if they can come as prepared as possible for whatever the future holds.”
Baptista, who finished the race, maintained position and crossed the start-finish in 11th. Baptista made his debut at the iconic road course, and one of the week’s many highlights for him was being able to drive the unique “Corkscrew” in the eighth turn – which features a blind crest with a 12-percent elevation drop.
“Laguna Seca is a really nice track,” Baptista said. “I’ve driven it in a lot in video games and on a simulator, so I knew the track. But coming here for the first time, it was fun to do the Corkscrew and everything. The first three to five laps were weird [on the Corkscrew], because I didn’t know where to go.”
Throughout the race week, K-PAX Racing offered Family House San Francisco a total look into the world of motorsports. The team visited the Family House facility earlier in the week, bringing one of its Continental GT3s for families with children suffering from pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. K-PAX Racing hosted families at the track for the race, where they were able to tour the team garage and interact with the drivers. K-PAX Racing officially announced its support for Family House in May 2017, entering the race against pediatric cancer.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race – 11th) – “Laguna Seca an iconic track where I have a lot of memories. I’ve had great results here, and I’ve won a championship here. I love coming to Laguna Seca, but I’m competitive. When I have a bad day like this one, it’s hard to absorb. Tomorrow will be a better day, and at least we leave knowing we gave it our best.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race – 11th) – “Since the first practice, we knew we didn’t have the best car here. We tried to make a setup to save the tires to be competitive. The team did a great job. The car wasn’t as quick as some of the others in the field, but I think we still had the pace. We stayed within the Top-10 for a lot of the race, and it was a good weekend.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race – 11th) – “It’s always such a pleasure to be a part of K-PAX Racing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the full-season here. But when I got the call to do the eight-hour, I jumped on it immediately. This is such a first-class operation. Everything that happens here top to bottom is done the right way. Although the results today didn’t produce what we wanted, it certainly is not for the lack of effort.”