MONTEREY, Calif. – K-PAX Racing will travel some-150 miles down the coast to its final event of the 2017 race season. Announced last month, the team will field its No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 car in the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours on October 15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Calif.).
“The level of competition is strong from the driver lineups to the caliber of teams, and we are ready for this event and the race,” Program Manager Darren Law said. “We have a great driver lineup, a solid team and are comfortable with our knowledge of this car and track together.”
The team, whose season-highlights include eclipsing the century mark for podium finishes in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) and finishing runner-up in the series’ Sprint GT category, enters a talented driver lineup for the California 8 Hours – Alvaro Parente, Ben Barnicoat and Bryan Sellers. All three drivers, each hailing from a different country, raced under the K-PAX Racing banner in 2017.
Parente and Barnicoat, both McLaren factory drivers, competed in the No. 9 car in the PWC SprintX category while also competing together in Europe. Parente was a mentor in Barnicoat’s first full season competing in the United States, as it was his first the year before – when Parente also secured the 2016 series championship at Laguna Seca. Though Barnicoat has yet to drive with Sellers, he said he has profound respect for the sports car veteran and looks forward to sharing the car with him.
“Last year in the last round of PWC, Alvaro had an excellent run Laguna Seca winning the title, and I haven’t driven with Bryan yet but throughout the season he’s been incredibly good,” Barnicoat said. “I’ve had quite a lot of teammates but I haven’t had many like Bryan. He helps me so much and because every track I’ve been to in America has been new to me, I know I can ask Bryan any question and he’ll be truthful which a lot of people don’t do. I’m extremely grateful of that. With Alvaro and Bryan, it’s going to be a great run.”
All Hands on Deck
During the PWC Sprint GT finale at Sonoma Raceway (Calif.), the No. 9 car suffered extensive damage in the opening laps. Following the race, the crew transported the car less than one mile away to its shop at the track, where they started to prepare the car for an intensive eight-hour race.
Piecing together the right-rear of the car, the team speedily made the repairs to allow for some practice sessions in-between. Law said the crew worked tirelessly in getting the job done, and that the team is ready for the upcoming week at the famed 2.238-mile course.
“It’s taken quite a bit of work to get the car ready for this race,” Law said. “We came out of the finale at Sonoma with significant amount of damage to the rear of the No. 9 car. The guys have been working hard to get it done but we are ready. As much as it would have been nice to not have to do this level of repair, it’s been good having all hands on deck at the shop as it keeps the crew working together and we have had time to practice pit stops.”
Going the distance
Parente, Barnicoat and Sellers all have competed in endurance races throughout their careers in sports car racing, which will help when strategizing for the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge – the first-ever American round in series history. K-PAX Racing, piloting the only McLaren 650S GT3 cars in the United States this season, will be joined by seven other manufacturers on the starting grid.
Parente most notably competed with K-PAX Racing in last year’s Motul Sepang 12 Hours. The Portugal-native said he looks forward to seeing how the car handles in the practice sessions at Laguna Seca earlier in the week, and takes that sort of approach in each of his races. At Sepang International Circuit, he was quickest in the first two free practices by setting a 2.03.468 lap-time at the 3.445-mile course. K-PAX Racing, which fielded the No. 9 car in the 12-hour race, finished 10th after suspension issues forced the car to pit for repairs and losing 12 laps.
Barnicoat, hailing from the United Kingdom, has competed in three endurance races this season under McLaren – the Bathurst 12 Hour, 6 Hours of Nurburgring and 24 Hours of Spa. Though he has not seen the results he had hoped for in each, Barnicoat is motivated to close the 2017 race season with a good result for K-PAX Racing.
”I’ve prepared for a lot of endurance sprints, but haven’t had much success,” Barnicoat said. “I want to make up the result from them. I think we’ll be a very strong threat to the other competitors.”
Sellers has competed in several endurance races throughout his career. In 2017, he has competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, 12 Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Petit LeMans. Through his career, he has seen success in longer races at Laguna Seca.
In 2013 – Sellers’ final season in the American Le Mans Series – he helped co-drive Team Falken Tire’s Porsche 997 GT3-RSR to a second-place finish in a four-hour race at Laguna Seca. Sellers said the key to success in this year’s eight-hour competition will be managing the car.
“It’s very difficult because it has different types of corners and it’s low-grip,” Sellers said. “Managing those grip scenarios is very interesting, and that’s what makes it difficult. Any time you have a surface that’s low grip, you have to be very precise, you have to have a good car setup and you run into problems with tire degradation. There’s a lot of factors to consider at Laguna.”
Alvaro Parente – No. 9 McLaren 650S – ““I’m looking forward to seeing how our car handles there and seeing what we can do. We’ve got the best team for it, and a good car. 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.”
Ben Barnicoat – No. 9 McLaren 650S – “I’m really looking forward to that one. It’s going to be very good. I’m very excited to be going to Laguna. I’ve heard many great things about it. It’s a very famous track. I’ve played it many times on PlayStation. I’ll get to really challenge myself. It’s a very iconic track with some great corners. The Corkscrew is definitely one of the world’s most famous corners on a racetrack so I’m extremely excited to be going there. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the area too as well as the track.”
Bryan Sellers – No. 9 McLaren 650S – “Well Laguna is one of our pinnacle tracks in the US. It just has a pretty historic past. A lot of the greats have driven here – not just American greats but Formula 1, IndyCar and Champ Car and of course sports cars go along with it. When you come here, you feel a little bit of significance to a whole area. It’s a neat rack to drive. I’m really excited for the eight-hour. It’s a great driver lineup – a group of people I can get along with and have a good time with. We’ve had success at Laguna Seca in the past. It will be a good experience for us to get together and go out to see if we can put together a good result.”
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