SONOMA, Calif. – K-PAX Racing announced Friday that it will compete in the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours in 2017. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Calif.) will play host throughout the week to nearly 20 manufacturers for eight Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Grand Touring (GT) and Touring Car (TC) classes with the addition of the eight-hour race on Sunday, October 15. The team entered its No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 car, which won the PWC championship in 2016.
“This is a great way to close out our 2017 season,” Program Manager Darren Law said. “Endurance racing is a different mindset than our current program of short sprint races in the Pirelli World Challenge.”
Portugal-native Alvaro Parente, who finished second in this season’s Sprint GT championship, will join American race car driver Bryan Sellers and British young-gun Ben Barnicoat for the event. The all-pro lineup all competed under the K-PAX Racing banner in 2017.
Last season, Parente was one of three drivers entered in the Motul Sepang 12 Hours at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia under K-PAX Racing. After suspension issues forcing the car to pit for repairs and losing 12 laps, last year’s trio still finished 10th in the McLaren 650S GT3. In 12 hours, the team completed 290 laps on the 3.444-mile course – travelling nearly 1,000 miles.
“Last season we finished out the year and traveled to Malaysia for the 12 Hours of Sepang which was a good experience for us,” Law said. “Our team already has a lot of experience in endurance racing but having already competed in a slightly different format than what we are used to in the U.S. – such as in the SRO Blancpain Series – it gives us a lot of confidence. Having an experienced driver lineup is also critical.”
Laguna Seca, a 2.238-mile North American jewel in sports car racing, features a one-of-a-kind corkscrew with an abrupt 12-percent elevation change among its 11 turns. K-PAX Racing’s most recent triumph there was in 2016, when Parente secured multiple series championships in the final lap of the last race of the season, including McLaren’s most recent manufacturers’ title. In August, the championship-winning No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 car was one of 12 cars featured in the “Racing Through the Decades” display during the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion there.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how our car handles there and seeing what we can do,” Parente said. “We’ve got the best team for it, and a good car. It’s a similar race to [Sepang] because strategy plays a big part in it. The team’s going to do the best job they can and so will we. I enjoy Sprint and endurance races a lot – especially when you’re working well and the team’s working well, and especially when you have a shot at the race.”
Throughout the 2017 racing season, Parente and Barnicoat have competed together in Europe under the SRO Blancpain GT Series. Barnicoat said already having a working relationship with Parente – and a friendship off the track – benefits the team in the upcoming race. Barnicoat, who is a first-year McLaren Factory driver, said he has learned from Parente – a six-year factory driver.
“There’s a big age difference between Alvaro and I, so I kind of feel like he’s my big brother taking me under his wing,” Barnicoat said. “He’s really helped me a lot this year. It’s a great friendship that definitely helps us in the car. It just works very well when we know each of our needs so we can get the most out of the race. It definitely helps in terms of getting the most out of the car. Fortunately, Alvaro and I have a very similar driving style which helps with setting up the car. We like it the same way and I think Bryan is similar as well.”
Law said adding Sellers to the lineup was a “natural choice” for the team. Sellers, a long-time veteran in sports car racing, has competed in three endurance races this season alone ranging from six to 24 hours in length. At the 12 Hours of Sebring, Sellers helped his Paul Miller Racing team to a fifth-place finish in the GTD class.
“There are a lot changes when you go to an endurance race,” Sellers said. “Your risk management first of all changes substantially. In a 50-minute race your risk is fairly high to try and get the reward. In the long races, it goes down significantly because you have more time to take advantage of mistakes made by other drivers.”
Sellers added that to have a successful trip at Laguna Seca, the team must be able to manage both the car and the clock. One of Sellers’ goals in endurance racing is being able to hand-off an unscathed car to his teammates.
“You want to be there for the last 45 minutes of the race,” Sellers said. “I think that’s one of the main things to keep in mind because in an endurance race, the race doesn’t start until after a certain amount of time whereas in a sprint race, it starts immediately and you want to move forward. In an endurance race, you have some time to do that.”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 106 podiums, 43 wins and four driver championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In 2014, K-PAX Racing expanded its relationship with McLaren GT, bringing two new 2015 McLaren 650S GT3 race cars into competition. The renewed effort kept K-PAX Racing at the forefront of competition, becoming a serious championship contender in the seasons to follow. In 2016, the team expanded to three full season McLaren 650S GT3 race cars, and clinched the Pirelli World Challenge Team, Driver, and Manufacturer Championships.
About McLaren GT
McLaren has been a pioneer and setting benchmarks on the tracks around the world for 50 years, and the latest range of GT racing models based on the road-going McLaren Automotive range is no different. McLaren GT was established in 2011 to develop, build and support all GT race activities. Based in Woking, Surrey at the former home of McLaren Racing, the company is responsible for the design, development and production of the 650S GT3, 570S GT4, and 650S and 570S Sprint models.
Pirelli World Challenge GT & GTA Class
2016 GT Class Driver, Team & Manufacturer Champions