Alvaro Parente recorded his 12th career Pirelli World Challenge GT victory Saturday in a dominating performance in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 at historic Road America in the 50-minute sprint race.
Other PWC class winners Saturday included Martin Fuentes in GTA, Ian James in GTS and Mark Klenin in GTSA.
Parente, the 2016 GT series champion, grabbed the lead on lap 2 at the restart of the 20-lap feature and never looked back in collecting the 50th Pirelli World Challenge win for the K-PAX Racing team. The win was his second in 2018 after a rough start to the season that included two heavy crashes at St. Petersburg and Alton, Virginia.
Parente finished 1.313 seconds in front of current GT Overall point leader Toni Vilander in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 and GT Sprint point leader Scott Hargrove of Canada in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The Bentley victory was the third GT triumph in the last four years at the famed Road America road circuit after Chris Dyson in 2015 and Adderly Fong in 2017.
Rounding out the top five in the GT division Saturday were pole winner Daniel Mancinelli in the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 and recent 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Michael Christensen in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“There’s a mix of emotions here,” said Parente. “It was really good to win here in the Bentley at a track that I really like. For the past two years I was here with a different car (McLaren) with not so good top speed. So, getting the win here is great. I’m also proud to be winning the 50th race for the guys at K-PAX Racing.
“The start was quite good. I was following the No. 31 Ferrari (Mancinelli) in Turn 1 and then Hargrove had a good launch on the outside. He got by me there. I tried to get him back in Turn 2, but it wasn’t possible. Around the back after the next hairpin, No. 31 and Hargrove got together and that allowed me to get up to second. On the restart, Mancinelli was sleeping or something and hesitated a little bit. I timed it just right and managed to get ahead of him there on the straight. The timing went well. I got the timing just right and managed to get by him there. After that it was just trying to manage the pace.”
Fuentes’ win Saturday was a hard-fought affair with 17-year-old Parker Chase, as the two GTA runners swapped the lead in the category three times in the last four laps before the Mexican driver took his No. 07 Squadra Corse Italia Ferrari 488 GT3 to the checkered flag. Chase, in the No. 19 TruSpeed Autosport Audi R8 LMS GT3, raced wheel-to-wheel with the veteran Fuentes before settling for runner-up, just 1.7 seconds back. Third went to young Anthony Imperato in the No. 91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“The race was very complicated for me,” said Fuentes. “The yellow flag periods were not helping us to get out on a lead, and then (Chase’s) car is very good on torque and brakes. On the brakes, he was dive-bombing and, then in Turn 5, he dove inside and I was wondering if I should just stay there. I just let him go and he flew off, so I just went over/under, and he did that four or five times. So, it’s great to be back up here in first place. This is the first time I’ve won here at Road America. Last time, we had an incident and just had to settle for points.”
James started on the pole in the GTS class and led from start to finish Saturday in the potent No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4, but the race was not that easy. A spectacular charge by James Sofronas from last to second, just 0.475 seconds back in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4, was one of the highlights of Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge feature.
Third went to 18-year-old Harry Gottsacker in the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4.
James recorded this third consecutive GTS win at Road America in the Team Panoz Racing sports car after winning both GTS main events in 2017 at the Wisconsin racing plant.
“Like any driver, there’s always a lucky track or favorite track,” said James. “Fortunately, Road America is one of those tracks for me. The Panoz has always historically done well here. The basic architecture of the car suits the track layout. The race was going great but we kept having yellow flags, so every time I got a little bit of a gap, the yellow would come out and the field would be on my tail again. And then the No. 14 Audi (James Sofronas) was just flying at the end. Probably one more lap and he would have had me. All in all, it was a great race and great to have Panoz back in the Winner’s Circle.”
Klenin, driving the all-new No. 62 Premiere Copier/KPR McLaren 570S, battled James early in the GTS overall standings before placing fourth overall and taking his second GTSA class win of the year. Klenin qualified third overall in the 28-car field, his career best in PWC action.
James Clay recorded the second GTSA position Saturday in the No. 83 Bimmerworld BMW M4 GT4 with third going to Alan Brynjolfsson in the No. 77 Volt Racing Ford Mustang GT4.
“The qualifying today was the best I’ve ever done,” said Klenin. “I was pleasantly surprised. When you do everything correctly it all comes into place. My team guys did a stellar job setting up the car. It was a nice surprise. It’s great to win my second race of the year. Now, we are ready for Sunday’s event.”
Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS action Sunday at Road America will get underway in the combined sprint 50-minute race at 2:45 p.m. CT and will be live streamed on www.world-challenge.com.