LAS VEGAS – K-PAX Racing’s driver duo of Andy Soucek and Alvaro Parente swept both Blancpain GT World Challenge America features at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday.
In the first feature, polesitter Soucek in the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, led the field to the green flag. Second-on-the-grid Scott Hargrove drag raced with Soucek as the green waved and slid past, running wide through the exit of turn eight and up into the lead. Toni Vilander, in the R. Ferri Motorsport No. 61 Ferrari 488 GT3, also moved by Soucek up into second.
Through lap one Hargrove led Vilander and Soucek. By lap two Soucek began pressuring Vilander for second and through turn three executed a pass for position. Meanwhile, Race Control issued a review of Hargrove’s pass for the lead on the start and shortly after issued a track limit infraction ruling that Hargrove would need to give the spot back to Soucek.
On lap six, Hargrove moved over on the back straight allowing Soucek to assume the lead. Behind them, Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato slotted into 5th overall and first in the Pro/Am category. Fellow class competitor Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer slotted in seventh overall and second in class, while Martin Barkey, the driver’s championship points leader coming into the weekend, slotted into ninth overall and third in class. RealTime Racing’s Hedlund slotted into fifth in the class. Naoto Takeda in the lone Am division entry ran in 12th overall.
Nearing the pit window with 50-minutes remaining in the race, Soucek gapped Hargrove by close to four seconds. With the pit window open, Barkey brought his No. 80 machine in first, followed by class leader Imperato. In the Pro division, Vilander was the first of the overall leaders into the pit, followed by Hargrove. Soucek remained out on track and entered to change over to Parente just before the close of the pit window.
As Parente moved down pit lane to re-enter the race, Long came down the front straight. Parente though was able to re-enter the race ahead of Long with Molina, who had taken over for Vilander slotting into third, and K-PAX Racing’s Maxime Soulet in fourth overall.
In Pro Am, Gradient Racing’s Marc Miller assumed the lead after the pit window closed, with Matt Campbell, who had taken the reins from Imperato in the No. 91, now in second. Cameron who took over duties from Hedlund had moved up into third in class while Kyle Marcelli, who had taken over for Barkey sat in fifth in the class in the No. 80 machine.
While Parente built a 6.5 second lead over Long at the head of the field by lap 32, Miller, Campbell and Cameron began a furious battle behind them for the lead in Pro/Am. Then on lap 39 contact between the Pro/Am leaders dropped Miller back and Campbell assumed the lead with Cameron now up into second. Parente continued to build his lead up front to 7.2 seconds. By lap 42, Campbell continued to lead in Pro/Am with Cameron, Miller and Marcelli who was up into fourth in the category pursuing the class leader.
On the white flag lap, Long slowed because of a right rear tire issue, allowing Molina to move into second. At the checkered, Parente crossed the line ahead of Molina by 8.4 seconds. Campbell crossed the line in first in the Pro/Am category.
A post race Stewarts’ decision penalized both the No. 91 car by 22 seconds and the No. 80 car by 40 seconds for contact during the race, moving the RealTime Racing team of Hedlund and Cameron into the race win in Pro/Am.
Provisionally, Ferrari leads Bentley by 10 points in the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship, while R. Ferri Motorsport leads K-PAX Racing by seven points. In the Pro/Am class RealTime Racing leads Racers Edge Motorsports by 15 points in the battle for the division Team Championship.
In the second race of the day, Parente led the field to the green from pole. Molina drag raced Parente to the first turn and pulled ahead into the lead. Parente slotted into second, while Soulet maintained his starting position in the third.
Cameron topped the Pro/Am class, 5th overall, while Campbell slotted into second in the category. Marcelli sat ninth overall and fifth in Pro/Am after the first lap.
By lap two, Molina grew his lead to 1.1 seconds over Parente. Running in 12th overall, Takuya Shairasaka, led the Am division.
By lap nine, Race Control, after reviewing the start of the race, ruled that Molina had run wide to take the lead and directed Molina to give the position back to Parente. On lap 11, Molina slowed down the front straight to give the position and the race lead to Parente.
By lap 12, Parente grew his lead over Molina to .923 seconds, while Soulet held third, and Patrick Long pursued in fourth. While Parente continued to lead by 1.2 seconds by lap 20, Long, pulled his Porsche off course after it encountered a mechanical issue. The Pro/Am battle heated up by Lap 24 as Cameron would go side by side with Campbell through turn seven and Cameron defended well to hold off the challenge and maintained his position.
With 50 minutes remaining in race and the pit window open, Soulet came into the pits first to change over to teammate Rodrigo Baptista. Parente also entered the pits to pass the reins to Soucek, while Molina stayed out to maximize track position. Near the end of the pit window, both Molina and Campbell entered the pits.
While Molina changing out for teammate Vilander, the R. Ferri Motorsport team struggled to refuel the No. 61 machine because of the slightly forward position of the car in the pit box versus the alignment of the fuel rig. The extended pit stop allowed both Soucek and Baptista to gain valuable track position. With the pit window closed Vilander now pursued the two K-PAX machines running third in class.
By lap 48, Hedlund now behind the wheel of the No. 43 machine slowed down the front straight with a possible mechanical issue allowing Fuentes to pass for the lead in Pro/Am and fourth overall in the race. Hedlund’s machine would regain power and he slotted into second in the category, with Imperato running third, and Barkey fourth in the category.
The leaders held their positions for the remainder of the race and at the checkered, Soucek (Parente) won over teammates Baptista (Soulet) by 6.4 seconds. Vilander (Molina) finished third. Fuentes (Renger Van der Zande) finished fourth overall and first in Pro/Am, with Hedlund (Cameron) and Imperato (Campbell) in second and third respectively.