K-PAX Racing switches to Bentley for 2018 PWC season

Photo: K-Pax Racing
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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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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds