K-PAX Racing is a team known for looking at things a little differently. When Pirelli World Challenge was being dominated by the 911 GT3 – which K-PAX raced for its first two seasons, winning the championship twice with Randy Pobst in 2007 and 2008 – K-PAX undertook making the Volvo S60 into a winner, and did so, winning another championship with Pobst in 2010. They were the first to race with McLaren in PWC, and took home a championship with Alvaro Parente in 2016 – the first time a driver in something other than a Cadillac had taken the title in four years. So it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise when, after four years K-PAX and owner Jim Haughey moved to something new. The surprise was that they chose Bentley.
The Bentley Continental GT3 made its PWC debut in 2014 with Dyson Racing (below). It has had a good record worldwide and scored several wins in World Challenge with Dyson and Team Absolute. But it hasn’t been a world-beater, and hasn’t been a match for cars like the McLaren or Porsche on shorter, twistier tracks. But K-PAX isn’t looking at the past; it’s looking at what’s coming.
“We as a group are looking toward what the future holds,” said Darren Law, K-PAX Racing’s program manager. “What are our options? Do we stay where we are? Do we look at other manufacturers? Looking at some of the new cars coming out, we went through a big process; we spoke to pretty much every manufacturer, what they have coming out. We, as a team, not only evaluated everything the manufacturers had to offer but we looked at what the cars’ performance levels were, we spoke to drivers, and came to the deduction that this was one of the top programs and cars that we should be involved with.”
Key to that decision is Bentley’s new version of the Continental GT3. Bentley Motorsport will run a pair of the new cars in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, meaning the car will likely see its U.S. debut at the October Intercontinental GT Challenge round at Laguna Seca. The new Continental GT3 will be available for customers in 2019.
Based on the new third-generation Continental introduced last September, the new car is lighter than its predecessor with different weight distribution. It has some aerodynamic and suspension improvements, along with a new development of the existing 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8.
“Speaking with them and getting more insight as to what they’ve done to improve the 2019 car, it made it a fairly easy choice,” Law explained. “The new car has a lot of things that are really positive and we’re excited about. I think they’ve taken everything that they had with their current car and evaluated each area and where they could improve, and I think they’ve done a really nice job.”
Perhaps as surprising as the Bentley switch was the revelation that Parente, until recently a McLaren factory driver, would continue with the team.
“That was important to us. There are some changes internally within McLaren GT so I don’t know what’s happening there, but that was a big factor for us; we wanted to keep Alvaro on board. He’s done a phenomenal job,” Law said.
Moving up from GTS to join Parente is Rodrigo Baptista. Baptista won four races for Flying Lizard Motorsports in his freshman World Challenge season.
“Rodrigo has done an amazing job,” Law noted. “Not only did he run last year in PWC, he also ran in Brazil in GT3 Cup. I was impressed … he was very dedicated to learning the tracks, and he proved it last year. I think he’s got a lot of potential.”
A third driver, likely a customer entry, is expected to be named later.
As K-PAX enters its 12th season in World Challenge, the team’s interest and support for the series shows no sign of waning – no surprise since Haughey is one of the shareholders in WC Vision. 2018 will certainly be a year of change with some key teams such as Wright and Cadillac departing, and others such as Pfaff and Callaway coming in.
“For us it still holds the same level of excitement,” Law said. “It’s great racing, it’s a great format. There’s always concern when you have several teams or manufacturers leaving; but it’s just the ebb and flow of the series. We’re still going to have a lot of competition, and it doesn’t change anything that we do. Our goal every single year is to go out to fight and win races and championships.”