Reigning Pirelli World Challenge GT Champion Scored Double Wins in 2016
LAKEVILLE, Conn. – Reigning Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Alvaro Parente has fond memories of the tight, fast Lime Rock Park track, site of this weekend’s next PWC SprintX doubleheader.
The 32-year-old Portugese driver hadn’t seen the popular 1.5-mile Connecticut road circuit before the week of last year’s Memorial Weekend racing spectacular. But when he left the Lime Rock Park facility, it seemed as if he owned it.
The McLaren factory sports car racer dominated both 50-minute GT Sprint events with his yellow and black No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S machine to vault to the top of the PWC GT driver point standings, a position he held for the majority of the 2016 series.
Parente returns this weekend (May 26-27) for a GT doubleheader with the new SprintX format which includes 60-minute races with two drivers driving one entry with a pit stop in the middle of the action. Parente, a 2017 two-time race winner at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, will team with young Ben Barnicoat of England at Lime Rock Park as the McLaren pair take on a stellar SprintX field in the Friday and Saturday races.
“It’s a very interesting track,” said Parente. “It’s a very small track with some key corners. It was a very nice environment – the mountains, the trees and just the entire area. Those were my thoughts (the first time he drove on the course), and, also that my fingers were crossed that our car would be super-competitive. It did turn out to be. It was fantastic.”
Parente immediately found a comfort zone with his McLaren 650S, the Pirelli tires and his K-PAX Racing team.
“It was a track that suited our car quite well,” Alvaro explained. “Lime Rock is a small track that doesn’t have any straight lines. It has some long corners and a slow chicane in the middle. It was quite a good combination for our car and we were very strong there last year.”
Parente’s 2016 Lime Rock Park domination was his only “double victory” weekend as the popular McLaren 650S proved to be just the right combination for that historic racing plant. A factory driver with a top-notch team and a lightning quick sports car is the perfect match for Lime Rock.
“Lime Rock was really good for us last year,” said Parente, a six-time winner in his initial PWC season. “Every year can change, but we’re motivated and confident that we can go in there and have a good weekend. We’re hoping we have a good pace on the setup, and we’re hoping that it will work for us again this year.”
Parente and Barnicoat had a tough SprintX race last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, having dropped out at the mid-point of the 60-minute contest due to contact from another car. But Parente is mentally prepared for another strong Lime Rock showing.
“Last year’s performance at Lime Rock is what motivates us for this year, to be able to do it again,” he said. “We needed to get those wins and podiums. I knew we had a really good chance. It was a great feeling. Patrick [Long] was very close all race long right until the end. It was a great feeling and a great accomplishment. I was very proud of the whole team.”
But Parente knows he needs to keep the strong runs coming as the 2017 PWC trail stretches into September at Sonoma Raceway.
“The championship is so long that I really was not thinking about it at the time after Lime Rock,” Parente said. “I was just thinking race-by-race, trying to give it all I had – like we’re doing this year. The mentality I have is that you need to give it everything you’ve got, week-in and week-out, to try to get the most points possible.”
In 2017, the Pirelli World Challenge split the GT division into two formats with 50-minute GT single-driver races and 60-minute, two-driver contests.
“Obviously under this SprintX format, anything can happen,” he said. “You have a few more variables with the pit stops and all that. We’re very much looking forward to having a great weekend at Lime Rock and my fingers are crossed that we’ll score some good points here.”
After two wins already in 2017, Parente is hoping that he and Barnicoat can put the K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S back in victory lane this weekend.
“I don’t think we’ll change much (setup in the car),” Parente admitted. “We had a package that worked really well last year, and we’re certainly going to try it this week. We’ll try to get some more information, but I think we have a great base to start with for sure – 100 percent.”
Parente, Barnicoat and over 100 other drivers and their sports cars will participate this weekend at Lime Rock Park in one of the Northeast’s most popular racing extravaganzas beginning this Friday (May 26) when practice rounds open.