Photo: K-Pax Racing

K-PAX Racing switches to Bentley for 2018 PWC season

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K-PAX Racing, one of the stalwart teams of Pirelli World Challenge, revealed today that they will be switching from McLaren, with whom they have contested the past four PWC seasons, to Bentley and confirmed that they will field three Bentley Continental GT3 entries in the 2018 season.

In their four years with McLaren, K-PAX notched 15 race wins and claimed the drivers’, team, and manufacturer championships in 2016, with Alvaro Parente taking the drivers’ crown.

K-PAX team owner Jim Haughey expressed confidence that K-PAX will continue its strong form under the Bentley banner.

“We competed with the very best from Porsche, Cadillac, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Acura and many others. We are looking forward to working with Bentley to win races next season and compete for another championship,” said Haughey.

K-PAX program manager Darren Law added that they are currently evaluating drivers and that, while the team enjoyed its partnership with McLaren, the potential in the Bentley platform caught their eye.

“Working with McLaren GT for the past four years has been a great experience and produced tremendous results. At the end of each season we evaluate the performance of our team and our program as well as what the future looks like. With the introduction of the new Bentley Continental GT3 we see a lot of potential. Currently we are in the process of finalizing K-PAX’s 2018 Driver line-up and will be making an announcement soon. We look forward to joining the Bentley Racing family and continuing our success beginning with next season.”

Elsewhere in Pirelli World Challenge, the GTS class will get a boost in the form of 2017 Trans Am Champion Gar Robinson and sportscar standout Shane Lewis, who will compete under the Robinson Racing banner and pilot a pair of 74 Ranch Resort Mercedes-AMG GT4 entries.

Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis will pilot two Mercedes-AMG GT4s in the GTS class. Photo: Robinson Racing

In addition to their success in the Pirelli Trans Am Series, where they have won two of the last three championships, Robinson Racing has also seen success in IMSA, and previously Grand Am, winning races in the GT and Prototype categories and even securing a triumph at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

“This is a big, positive move for everyone at Robinson Racing,” said team owner George Robinson. “In the nearly 30 years this team’s been racing together, it’s probably been at least 20 years since we’ve entered a paddock so ripe with manufacturer presence and support. That’s huge, and not just for the opportunities it presents to all the drivers, but it has also had very real benefits to teams like ours through the ability to campaign factory-built cars with factory support on- and off-track in terms of engineering support, parts and spares, and of course the marketing power that we all get to enjoy. This is one of the few series we haven’t raced in, and we’re very excited to compete there.”

Gar Robinson revealed that he is often resistant to change, but feels this move is going to be a positive for Robinson Racing.

“Sometimes my friends give me a hard time because I don’t always like change, but I’m really looking forward to this one. Plus, my crew is my dad’s old crew – the same guys I’ve been racing with since they were running prototypes for my dad and quarter midgets for me, so no matter where we’re racing, it always feels like family,” Gar revealed.

For Lewis, this marks a return to World Challenge competition, as he competed in World Challenge in the 1990s, and added that the series is on the upswing, especially regarding its range of manufacturers in the series.

“This is a bit of a homecoming for me as I raced in World Challenge earlier in my career, though there’s obviously a typo in the record books because it’s impossible that that was nearly 22 years ago,” Lewis quipped. “No matter how long it’s been, Pirelli World Challenge is without peer in its ability to attract and engage global manufacturers.”

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Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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