The team's trio of McLaren 650S GT3 race cars performed strong.
After an impressive debut with three new drivers at Rounds 1 and 2 of the Pirelli World Challenge at Circuit of the Americas, K-PAX Racing bettered its efforts this weekend in Race One at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, earning its first podium finish of the 2016 race season. Although Race Two ended in disappointment, the team's trio of McLaren 650S GT3 race cars performed strong, boasting impressive runs on the temporary street circuit.
In the opening qualifying session, McLaren GT Factory driver Alvaro Parente landed the No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 in 2nd, the best qualifying effort for the team so far this season. Austin Cindric also presented a strong run in his No. 6 McLaren, starting in the second row in 4th position. Colin Thompson had some struggles in the session, qualifying to start 14th.
The restarts killed us...
Unlike typical a St. Petersburg race, the field had a clean start to Race One, with all cars getting through turn one contact free. For the opening laps, Parente stayed within a competitive distance of race leader Michael Lewis, and the two pulled away from the pack. Cindric settled in to 6th and while Thompson battled with Kyle Marcelli and Patrick Long for 13th. As Thompson worked his way to the top ten, close racing contact resulted in a right rear tire puncture, causing Thompson and the No. 13 McLaren to make an unscheduled pit stop with just four minutes remaining on the clock. Cindric finished 5th, bringing home his first top five finish of the year, and Parente maintained 2nd position, earning the team it first podium of the 2016 season.
The trio essentially started Race Two where they finished in the previous race, with Parente in 2nd, Cindric in 5th, and Thompson in 15th. The race got off to a rocky start when a big crash on lap three brought out a lengthy caution. The cars suffered on the restart, as the field went back to green, Parente and Patrick Long battled over third position in turn one, with Long eventually taking the position later that lap. Shortly after, he reported to the team that the clutch on his No. 9 was slipping, making the race more difficult for the Portuguese driver. From there, the team's luck went from bad to worse in turn one with nine minutes remaining. Contact from two other cars sent both Parente and Cindric spinning, ending the race early for the No. 9 and No. 6 McLarens. Colin Thompson, who had an impressive run so far, restarted the final few minutes of the race in 8th, and remained there for the final two green laps of the race.
Despite the disappointing race end, the K-PAX Racing McLarens proved to be competitive, fighting all weekend long at the front of the pack, as well as showing an impressive charge up the field. The Pirelli World Challenge next heads to the Long Beach Grand Prix, another temporary street circuit, April 15-17.
Alvaro Parente // No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3
"I'm really proud to have finished on the podium with K-PAX Racing and McLaren GT. The team did a great job, and the car performed beautifully. It's disappointing we couldn't bring another strong finish in race two. It was a miserable race. A lot happened out here. The restarts killed us and I just wasn't given any room into turn 2. I lost positions and then later got taken out. Also, my clutch was slipping towards the end and it just made for such a disappointing race."
Colin Thompson // No. 13 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3
"Today we definitely did not have an ideal starting position in 15th, but the whole K-PAX Racing team worked really hard to make a lot of adjustments to the set up. We had just the right car for today. We were strong on starts and restarts and able to move up from 15th to 8th throughout the race. I was able to avoid a couple big accidents and moments around me, and overall it was a good race for me and my guys. It was tough to see my teammates having issues with other cars and ending their races early, but for the number 13, we had a strong race."