SONOMA, Calif. – The Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) will headline Castrol presents the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) from May 19-21, and for the second consecutive SprintX event K-PAX Racing will field its three McLaren 650S GT3 cars in a competitive 30-plus car field. Since the inaugural year of SprintX GT competition in 2016, the class has nearly doubled in entries.
As a part of the team’s 2016 GT championship campaign, the team recorded four Top-10 performances in two rounds at CTMP – a 10-turn, 2.458-mile circuit. Alvaro Parente, who finished the best out of team’s three drivers in both rounds last season, said his car was slightly off-pace though the trio finished respectably in the 26-car field. Parente finished as high as sixth in the event’s finale.
More importantly, Parente gained ground in the points championship from his two Top-10 finishes. The Portuguese driver entered the weekend ranked third in points behind the Cadillac Racing duo of Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper. Throughout the weekend, Parente kept the two behind him, ultimately catapulting him into a tie for first in the drivers championship with nine races remaining on the schedule. Parente took sole possession of the top spot in the rankings the following weekend at Lime Rock Park (Conn.) by sweeping the weekend.
“It was my first time racing full-time in the states, so it was a very exciting year,” said Parente about battling track-to-track for the GT championship. “Everything was new to me – the whole spirit and mentality at the racetracks. Everything was very different. We’ve had a great car with the 650S [so far in 2017], and we’d like to continue that success through the season in both GT and SprintX.”
Though CTMP was an integral part of Parente’s championship campaign, he does not look back. Rather, he said he looks forward to the track’s distinct high-speed circuit this season in the SprintX class. Parente said when he first entered the PWC GT ranks, not having to share the car helped him adapt to the new tracks he saw on the schedule.
“You get a lot of track time [that way], which definitely helped me,” Parente said. “I had all the Friday practices to learn the tracks. Having all that time to prepare was great.”
But, he is no stranger to the two-driver race setup. Parente has been successful in the SRO Blancpain GT series in Europe, which has a similar format to PWC SprintX. Now having raced at CTMP, he wasted no time strategizing with Barnicoat for the upcoming race. As he and Barnicoat carried their second-place trophies back to the race hauler following their podium finish at VIR, the two talked about the challenges ahead – a fast-action track that will test the team’s prowess behind the wheel.
“It’s a great track and I think Ben is going to like it a lot,” Parente said. “It’s challenging, but we’ll see what happens. We just need to have a good mindset because you never know what can happen.”
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Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S – “Last year was a tough race for us. We really did not have the pace but you never know, it can change this year. We’re certainly going to try to do our best and see what happens there. We need to go in with a positive mindset.”
Ben Barnicoat – No. 9 McLaren 650S – “I’ve heard great things about the track. It’s a very challenging one with high-speed corners. I’m looking forward to that challenge. We’re going to give it our all here.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 6 McLaren 650S – “Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is a great track. I would say it’s one of our pinnacle tracks in North America and one everyone wants to check off the bucket list. It’s a difficult place. You need a lot of things to be able to go fast. You need a car that’s good in a straight line, you need a car that’s good in high-speed corners and in a couple places you need a car that is actual good at slower speeds. It takes everything to be able to win there. I think as a program we are continuing to improve and work together. I think we’ll go back ready and give it our best shot.”
Jonny Kane – No. 6 McLaren 650S – “I heard a lot of great stuff about the circuit. I hear it’s quite challenging and a little more high-speed. The car felt great in the high-speed sections at VIRginia International Raceway, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s another track with quite a bit of history, and I’m looking forward to going there.”
Mike Hedlund – No. 98 McLaren 650S (Pro-Am) – “I’m really looking forward to driving our K-PAX McLaren 650S at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. I haven’t been there since 2013 and it was in a Porsche Cup Car, so I’m really looking forward to a quick car with a lot of downforce – a lot of grip at high speeds. I think we’ll be competitive. The long, uphill straightaways will be difficult. But I think with the rest of the track we’ll be very strong. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Michael Lewis – No. 98 McLaren 650S (Pro-Am) – “Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has a lot of very fast corners, and it’s a track that requires a lot out of the car (strategizing). It seems like it’s all fast-track, and I really like that circuit because of the fast turns – especially the first sector where you’re coming over big crescent hills and somewhat blind corners. The first sector is very oval-like – very NASCAR-oriented where you’re in high-speed corners side-by-side on the start. I’m looking forward to that. It’s very technical, and it’s great we get to go up there and show our cars to the fans who are up there.”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 98 podiums, 39 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.