No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 breaks track record on its way to second win of the season
ALTON, Va. – In the third round of Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) SprintX competition at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 of Rodrigo Baptista and Max Soulet out-performed the entire field, winning their second race of the season as teammates. Not only did the Pro-Am driver pairing dominate its class, but it also pulled away from some of the series’ most elite, pro-level drivers.
“We’re extremely proud of the result from the No. 3 car today,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “The drivers did a great job behind the wheel, and the crew did a really good job on the car. We’re really proud to win for all the people who support K-PAX Racing – Opti-Coat and Family House San Francisco being some of the many that do – and to also to bring this win home for Bentley because their U.S. headquarters is located in [Reston] Virginia.”
The VIR course – a 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course – lent itself to the team’s Continental GT3s and had earlier in the week. Both Continental GT3s recorded fast times in qualifying. Notably, Baptista received top-honors in Pro-Am for his pole-setting 1:42.251 lap. Álvaro Parente, who qualified in the No. 9 car, had the third-fastest time in the Pro-Pro class with a 1:42.350. The two K-PAX Racing cars shared the second row on the grid.
“We have a great car here,” said Baptista after qualifying on the pole. “I just tried to do my best, and we almost stayed on the overall pole. I’m happy to be starting the race among the pro-level guys.”
The No. 3 car was third-fastest overall in qualifying, but Baptista felt he had the fastest car in the event opener. Starting alongside Parente in the second row (positions three and four), Baptista contested for the top-spot – held by polesitters Daniel Morad and Fabian Schiller of CRP Racing – within the first 20 minutes of the race.
Moving into second-place within the first 15 minutes of an hour-long race, Baptista diminished Morad’s one-second lead to less than two-tenths of a second. Baptista felt the No. 3 car gained its most ground exiting Turn 11 and safely claimed sole-possession of the lead on his second attempt. Though the pass was not for class position, Baptista said he knew it was just a matter of time until he could successfully get by the front-running Pro-Pro car.
“I just kept pressing and hoping that I’d have a really good exit out of Turn 11,” Baptista said. “It was a place where we could really use our top-speed to make the passes. The first time I tried to make the pass we almost touched each other. I waited a couple laps before trying it again, and then we were able to make the pass.”
Baptista was able to separate his No. 3 car from the entire field by nearly one second and from the Pro-Am class by more than 16 seconds. At about the halfway mark, Baptista handed the wheel off to Soulet, who built upon their lead. Soulet helped lead the No. 3 car to a commanding 19.474-second margin of victory in the overall and won by more than 40 seconds in the Pro-Am class.
“I think you always have to stay focused and especially here, there is no room to make any mistakes,” Soulet said. I kept my head down after a good pit-stop, and I got into a good rhythm without pushing too much. I was able to bring it home safely. I think the biggest moment for us was Rodrigo’s pass on the Mercedes because after that, we were able to just pull away and widen the gap.”
The No. 3 car has continued its strong week in Virginia, stringing together fast lap times each time it rolls onto the track. On Friday, Soulet recorded the fastest practice lap of the day with a 1:42.964. The lap was also the only time below the 1:43.000 mark. Late in the race, Soulet recorded the fastest lap of the race with a 1:43.084 – a new series track record for a race lap by almost a full second and a half (2017, 1:44.347).
In early-April, K-PAX Racing made a detour in the series schedule by testing at VIR. The goal of the two-day test was not only to optimize the setups on the Continental GT3s but to also familiarize Andy Soucek and Soulet with a new track. Soulet said his first impression of VIR was that it was the “real deal” – a course that suited not only his driving style but also the Bentley.
“About a month ago when we were here with Rodrigo and K-PAX Racing, we made improvements,” Soulet said. “We changed our car completely around and tried a lot of different stuff. We found what worked. The car was fast, and we haven’t touched it since.”
The No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 and Parente and Soucek had also been strong in the week leading into the races. However, on the opening lap Parente was involved in an incident exiting the second turn that caused extensive damage, ultimately forcing the team to retire the car for the weekend. Parente got out of the car uninjured shortly after the contact.
“It’s really disappointed with what happened to the No. 9 car today,” Law said. “We had a really strong car, and I think we could have potentially had both on the podium today. It was a tough race because the car literally got taken out. We’re just glad Álvaro is all right. It’s a big enough hit that it will take us out of the race tomorrow, and we have a lot of work to do.”
The No. 3 car will start on pole tomorrow for the event finale. Soulet will start the race, and he is hoping that the team can carry the momentum from the victory into tomorrow.
“I’m the one leading the pace at the start tomorrow, so I can decide when or when not to go,” Soulet said. “I hope we’ll have a clean start and stay in front. If we stay in front, then we have a chance.”
The Grand Prix of Virginia Presented By Audi Sport finale is set to start on Sunday, April 29 at 11:30 a.m. (ET) For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC) – Not available for comment.
Andy Soucek – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC) – “We knew from testing that we were going to be the car to beat at VIR. We have shown that in qualifying and practice – despite our problems with the turbos that we found yesterday. We had a competitive car for qualifying, and this is a track where we should have finished P1 and P2.”
Rodrigo Baptista (Pro-Am) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “I really like VIR. It’s one of my favorite tracks here in the U.S. Tomorrow, hopefully we have the same result. We need to have a good start and I hope we can have some consistently good laps out there.”
Max Soulet (Pro-Am) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “We knew we had a very good car. I just needed to get Rodrigo comfortable with the car because he is so young and still learning. He did perfectly today and has been since the beginning of the week.”