K-PAX Racing’s driver duo of Andy Soucek and Alvaro Parente won Saturday afternoon’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America Series Round 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with R. Ferri Motorsport’s Toni Vilander and Miguel Molina finishing second keeping the Bentley vs. Ferrari Manufacturers Championship duel tight.
A post-race stewards’ decision gave RealTime Racing’s Mike Hedlund and Dane Cameron taking top honors in the Pro/Am category.
Polewinner Soucek in the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 led the field to the green flag, but second-on-the-grid Scott Hargrove (No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)), running wide through the exit of Turn 8, grabbed the lead at the end of Lap 1
Vilander, in the R. Ferri Motorsport No. 61 Ferrari 488 GT3 also moved past Soucek on the first lap, up into second.
But on Lap 2, Soucek took second place back from Vilander in Turn 3, just as Race Control noted they were reviewing Hargrove’s pass for the lead on the opening lap. Soon, they issued a track-limit infraction, ruling that Hargrove would need to give the spot back to Soucek.
On Lap 6, Hargrove moved over on the back straight allowing Soucek to retake the lead. Behind them, Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato (No. 91 Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)) slotted into fifth overall and first in the Pro/Am category.
Fellow class competitor Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer (No. 5 Acura NSX) slotted in 7th overall and second in class, while Martin Barkey, the Driver’s Championship points leader coming into the weekend, held ninth overall and third in class in his No. 80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX.
RealTime Racing’s Hedlund ran fifth in the class in his No. 43 Acura NSX, while Naoto Takeda in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW F13 M6 GT3 — the lone Am division entry — held down 12th overall.
Nearing the pit window with 50 minutes remaining in the race, Soucek had gapped Hargrove by close to four seconds. When the pit window opened, Barkey brought his No. 80 machine in first, followed by class leader Imperato. In the Pro division, Vilander was the first of the overall leaders into the pit, followed by Hargrove.
Soucek stayed out until the last minute, pulling in to change over to Parente just before the window closed.
As Parente moved down pit lane to re-enter the race, Long was barreling down the front straight, Parente just able to re-enter the race in the lead ahead of Long, with Molina, who had taken over for Vilander, slotting into third, and K-PAX Racing’s Maxime Soulet in the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 in fourth overall.
In Pro Am, Gradient Racing’s Marc Miller (No. 5 Acura NSX) assumed the lead after the pit window closed, with Matt Campbell (who had taken the reins from Imperato in the No. 91 Porsche) now in second.
Cameron who took over from Hedlund in the No. 43 Acura had moved up into third in class, while Kyle Marcelli, who had taken over for Barkey, sat in fifth.
While Parente built a 6.5-second lead over Long at the head of the field, Miller, Campbell and Cameron engaged in a furious battle behind for the lead in Pro/Am. On lap 39, contact dropped Miller back and Campbell assumed the lead with Cameron now up into second.
Parente built his lead up front to 7.2 seconds on Lap 42, Campbell continuing to lead in Pro/Am with Cameron, Miller and Marcelli (up into fourth in the category) all pursuing the class leader.
On the white flag lap, Long slowed with right-rear tire issue, allowing Molina to move into second. At the checkered, Parente crossed the line ahead of Molina by 8.4 seconds as Campbell took first in the Pro/Am category.
A post-race stewards’ decision, though, penalized the No. 91 car by 22 seconds for contact during the race, giving the RealTime Racing Team of Hedlund and Cameron the race win in Pro/Am.
Barkey and Marcelli finished fourth in Pro/Am.
Provisionally, Ferrari leads Bentley by 10 points in the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship, while R. Ferri Motorsport leads K-PAX Racing by seven points in the Team Championship.
In the Pro/Am class, RealTime Racing leads Racers Edge Motorsports by 11 points in the battle for the teams title.
“It’s been a great weekend so far — two poles and now this domination during the race,” said Parente. “The car is working well here. It’s a bit different than what we expected actually; we thought we were going to struggle a bit more in Turn 12. It’s not the strongest area on the track for our car, but everything else is working well.
“Congratulations to the team,” Parente continued. They were incredible on the pit stop, and Andy (Soucek) is driving super well also. We’ll see what happens this evening in Race 2.”
Blancpain GT World Challenge America drivers now get set for the final race of the season, Round 14, set for a green flag start tonight at 7:30 p.m. PDT. Watch the race at www.gt-world-challenge-america.com/live.
The series closes out its 2019 season tonigh, the Las Vegas weekend sponsored by R.U.N – The First Live Action Thriller produced by Cirque du Soleil.