Portugese star scores 4 wins already, having never seen North American tracks

Elkhart Lake, WI – Prior to the 2016 racing season, Alvaro Parente had only competed once in North America during his impressive motorsports career.

Parente, 31, drove in an A1 GP event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and then drove to Las Vegas to see the bright lights of “Sin City.” It was an interesting experience for the popular Portuguese driving star.

“I saw the beautiful Monterey area and then drove through the desert for eight hours to see Las Vegas,” said Parente, who comes to Road America and the picturesque 4-mile road circuit on June 23-26 for the next Pirelli World Challenge rounds. “Now, there was a lot of contrasting things in that drive. This year I have gone to new and exciting places and all of the tracks are new to me also. But it’s been fun competing in the Pirelli World Challenge.”

While Parente is a “rookie” to the series, he is no rookie with his exotic No. 9 K-PAX Flying Lizard Motorsports McLaren 650S GT machine and he is proving it on a weekly basis with impressive performances which have taken him to the GT division points lead at the halfway point of the PWC 20-race campaign.

Racing against past sports car champions like Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Jon Fogarty, Andrew Davis and Peter Cunningham as well as superb youngsters such as Michael Cooper, James Davison, Austin Cindric, Colin Thompson, Ryan Eversley, Bryan Heitkotter and Adderly Fong has given Parente a new insight into North American GT competition.

“The Pirelli World Challenge brings me back to my single-seater days when there was a ton of talent and it was flat-out sprint racing,” said Parente, a four-time winner in 2016. “The GT3 level of racing is very tight and very competitive. In recent years, I have raced in endurance competition. Now, it’s just me and my machine against the field.”

Parente literally grew up in motorsports with his grandfather, uncles and his father, Alvaro Sr., all racers in Portugal. Alvaro Jr. was driving a go-kart at age four and began racing at seven.

“Motorsports is a big tradition in my family with my grandfather, uncles and my dad all driving,” he said. “So I started young and won regional and national championships in Portugal and the European title once too. Then I wanted to take the direction to Formula One and moved through the single-seaters and won championships there too.”

Alvaro won the 2005 British Formula 3 championship as well as the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. He drove for Super Nova in GP2 in hopes of moving into Formula One. In fact, Parente signed as a test driver for Virgin Racing in F1 but, in 2011, he became a McLaren factory driver.

“I was working my way towards Formula One but the McLaren factory ride was a great opportunity,” said Parente. “And I’m now in my fifth year with McLaren. I’m very excited to be with K-PAX and racing in North America with Pirelli World Challenge.”

And his recent statistics show why Parente is happy racing in PWC in 2016.

In 11 races, Alvaro has recorded a GT series high with four victories and four pole positions. Only one DNF has kept Parente from all top-ten finishes in the first half of the 20-race series.

“I can’t say enough about the K-PAX team and the McLaren race car this year,” said Parente. “The car is good around the slow and high-speed corners and not as strong on the longer straightaways. But the team has put together a strong operation with the McLaren sports car to give me a chance in each race. It is a very reliable car.

“All of the GT3 cars have one strong suit. Some are good in the corners while others have good straightaway speed. It’s very hard to get the Balance of Performance just right with the so many GT3 makes. I feel that the Pirelli World Challenge has done a good job with it.”

And Parente is enjoying his switch from endurance racing to sprint racing in 2016 too.

“Sprint racing is very interesting racing but very hard racing,” he commented. “We have 50-minute sprint races and everyone is racing flat out with these GT3 cars. All of the GT cars are so well-balanced. This type of racing brings me back to my single-seater racing and it’s fun. I’m able to set up the car to my liking. You have to compromise the setups in endurance racing.”

There is no compromise for Parente in one of the most competitive sports car series in the world and he is hoping to continue his outstanding start in 2016.

“We have had some qualifying sessions that have been so close already this year,” Parente explained. “In fact, at the last race at Lime Rock Park, we were tied for fast time and it took my second best time to capture the pole. And we have missed out of pole position by a tenth or less too. It’s so close in both qualifying and the race.

“I want to say a big thanks to Steve Conover, my engineer, and the whole team. Everyone at K-PAX Racing, McLaren, Flying Lizard, they all have done a great job.”

Parente also has served as a mentor to his young McLaren teammates Colin Thompson (age 21) and Austin Cindric (age 17). Thompson won the 2015 GT Cup and Cindric, son of Penske Racing president Tim, has already driven in USF2000, ARCA (recently second at Pocono), Red Bull Global Rallycross, IMSA sports cars and now the Pirelli World Challenge.

Parente and his K-PAX McLaren teammates return to action at Road America on June 23-26 with double header GT races at the legendary Wisconsin racing course. All seven Pirelli World Challenge classes will be in action at Road America beginning Thursday, June 23.