K-PAX Racing has announced details of its 2019 program in Blancpain GT World Challenge America. The team, which is entering its second season with Bentley, will be the first in North American team to field the second-generation Continental GT3. Returning behind the wheel will be drivers Alvaro Parente and Rodrigo Baptista, with Bentley factory drivers Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet as their co-drivers.
“We’re really excited to have the second-generation Bentley Continental GT3,” said K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law. “After spending all of last season with the first-generation car, we feel the car is a big leap forward, and it should be very competitive.”
Following October’s Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Bentley Motorsport delivered two of the second-generation models to the team’s headquarters in Sonoma, Calif. M-Sport fielded the two cars alongside K-PAX Racing’s single entry of a first-generation model for the race, which allowed the team to simultaneously learn more about the car in a racing environment.
“For us, it’s a brand-new car so there are a lot of things to learn,” Law said. “From the mechanical side, I think we’re familiar with the basics of the car. But Bentley has made a number of changes, so the mechanics will need to spend more time with it. The engineers primarily will need to spend the most time on the car. We have a comprehensive test-program in place, that includes several test sessions prior to the start of season to help us learn and develop the car.”
Since its switch to Bentley, the team has won 10 times.
“I think we’ve shown our team’s true abilities – having won all three championships in 2016 with a different manufacturer,” Law added. “We have shown that we can switch manufacturers and be successful. In our first season, we had multiple wins and pole positions. It doesn’t matter what car we run. We’re always a championship-level team. We look forward to proving that with the second-generation Continental GT3, and we are thankful that Bentley has put their trust in us, considering us as the only semi-works program in the United States.”
For a fourth consecutive season, Parente will join K-PAX Racing in the team’s pursuit of its second series title in four years. In his debut season, the Porto, Portugal racing veteran helped K-PAX Racing to its fourth championship title in team history.
“It gives you stability when the team wants you back, and I did want to return for a fourth year,” Parente said. “We’ve had so much success in the past — a championship, runner-up the next year and then having some wins last season. Everyone is excited for the new car, and I’m motivated by this team that works so well together. They’re focused, and we’re going to try to do what we did the first year by winning a championship.”
Parente said although last season presented some challenges, it laid the foundation for the team to build in 2019. At the California 8 Hours, Parente was able to learn what to expect with the second-generation Continental GT3, and he is confident that the car will perform well at many of the tracks on the schedule.
“We already know the characteristics of the car, so I think we just need to keep learning about it as fast as possible and get it working on all types of tracks,” Parente said.
“[Bentley] has been really helping us reach our full potential – to go fast and do well. They’ve been nothing but helpful in getting us the results we want. It was a tough first season, but we’re going to see what we can do this year. It’s always easier when everyone knows more – the foundations of the car and the people from Bentley, and they now have a year of experience with the car.”
Soucek and Soulet, who had experience competing in the second-generation Continental GT3 last season with M-Sport, have since been helping the team adapt to a new car.
“Alvaro and I have talked, especially at Laguna Seca where K-PAX Racing had the first-generation and we had the second-generation model,” said Soucek, who will complete the driver pairing for the No. 9 car. “We haven’t gone deep into setup because I think that’s something we need to learn, but it will be interesting. We’ll have three test dates leading into the first three events of the season, so we’ll be learning a lot, and we will be bringing a lot of our experience from Europe to try and improve and adapt the setups to the American tracks.”
K-PAX indicated it could also add a third Bentley entry for customers if the opportunity arises.