3-Car Contingent led by five-time winner Alvaro Parente takes on stellar GT field
SONOMA, Calif. – The San Francisco Bay Area sports teams are used to the home field or home court advantage. Whether it’s the Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Giants at AT&T Park, the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium or the Raiders and Athletics at Oakland Coliseum, they always enjoy having the local fans on their side.
The same holds true in auto racing this weekend as the K-PAX Racing McLaren sports car team will have the home track advantage. Based at Sonoma Raceway, the three K-PAX Racing drivers – Alvaro Parente, Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson – will be taking on a tough Pirelli World Challenge GT field this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 17-18) in Rounds 18 and 19.
Working out of the garages at Sonoma Raceway has been an advantage for the K-PAX Racing team in the past as the McLaren 650S contingent captured one of last year’s 50-minute sprint feature. And they placed runner-up in the second main event.
“We would definitely like another weekend like last year,” said Darren Law, team director for K-PAX Racing. “We are in a battle for the driver’s championship with Alvaro (Parente, currently 21 points out of the GT point lead) as well as the team (K-PAX Racing) and manufacturers (McLaren) titles. So being at our track could be an advantage. But this GT class in the Pirelli World Challenge is very competitive and the Sonoma races will not be easy.”
Parente, the 31-year-old McLaren Factory driver from Portugal, has been spectacular in his rookie season in PWC with five victories and six pole positions. Only a frustrating weekend last month at Utah has kept Alvaro out of the GT point lead in a fierce battle with Porsche’s Patrick Long, the GT point leader, and Cadillac’s Michael Cooper and Johnny O’Connell.
“It has been an impressive season with Alvaro, who had never seen the U.S. road circuits before,” said Law. “Of course, he is a factory McLaren driver who has won in Europe, Asia and Australia. He tested for the first time at Sonoma Raceway a few weeks ago and I like his testing regiment. He is so professional and works well with Austin and Colin, who are so young in the sport.”
Cindric, age 17, is the son of Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and has scored a pole and second place in his first Pirelli World Challenge season. Thompson, last year’s GT Cup champion with 13 wins, is a part of the McLaren GT Academy at age 21 and the Pennsylvania youngster has shown speed at a variety of PWC GT events this year.
With the veteran Parente and Law, a former sports car champion, serving as mentors for the younger Cindric and Thompson, the K-PAX Racing lineup has continued its contending position in the GT division in this year’s Pirelli World Challenge.
“There has been a learning curve for all three of the K-PAX drivers this year,” said Law. “Obviously, Alvaro had to learn the tracks in North America as well as the type of racing here. There is more contact in the European racing in sports cars. Here a driver must allow more room for the other drivers in the corners. So he had to learn our style of racing. But he is so easy going and available to talk among the team. It has been a great experience.
“For Austin and Colin, they are young and moving up into a new and very competitive division in the GT class. So I have had to mentor them on racing technique as has Alvaro. Alvaro is a great teammate for the young guys in car setup, racing strategy and off-track events.”
And now the K-PAX trio returns to their home track with victory on their minds.
“Having Alvaro test at Sonoma Raceway a few weeks ago will be a big help entering the weekend,” explained Law. ‘He knows the track now and doesn’t have to take the time to learn the corners and the racing surface. And Austin and Colin have tested here previously and they have a good knowledge for the weekend.”
In addition to the K-PAX Racing GT effort, Law also will handle the Flying Lizards Motorsports operation at Sonoma Raceway this weekend with Michael Hedlund of Redwood City, Calif., in the No. 35 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry in the GT Cup category and Andy Wilzoch of Aurora, Colo., in the No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTA division.
“It will be a busy weekend for our organization as friends and family come to this event,” said Law. “But we get to sleep in our own beds and work in familiar surroundings. That is much easier and the crew. We’re looking for another good weekend with all of our drivers and cars at Sonoma Raceway. I sure hope we have the home track advantage when the weekend is complete.”
Practice rounds for the Pirelli World Challenge get underway this Friday, Sept. 16, with four divisions – GT, GTA, GT Cup and GTS – in action throughout the weekend. Two races (GT/GT/GT Cup and GTS) will be held on Saturday and Sunday over the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road circuit north of the San Francisco Bay.