After six years as a McLaren GT factory driver, Alvaro Parente says he’s excited for the next step in his career.
The 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT champion with K-PAX Racing was announced this week as one of the team’s drivers for its three-car Bentley Continental GT3 lineup in PWC next year.
Parente has also signed for a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup role alongside Katherine Legge with Michael Shank Racing in the team’s No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Following years of success in a McLaren uniform, Parente admitted it will feel different branching out to different manufacturers next season, but said he’s ready for the new challenge.
“Times changed a little bit for me in relation to 2018,” Parente told Sportscar365. “I’ve been with McLaren for past five, six years. At the moment, for next year, things are changing.
“I wanted to keep racing with K-PAX, and this new program with the Acura – well, new for me – so we can say things changed a little bit. Everything is good.
“I still have a very good relationship with everyone at [McLaren] GT. I feel very lucky for them to have bet on me all of these years.
“I tried to help them and get the best results possible and I think we achieved lots of great things, just concluding that period of time, but all is good and good relationship with everyone. I feel very happy to have been part of that program.
“Now it’s time for a change for next year. There are challenging times ahead; after running with the same car for quite a few years, I’m excited for the times ahead and feel good and happy with this new program for 2018.”
The Portuguese ace said maintaining continuity within K-PAX was an attractive proposition, especially given to opportunity to continue full-time in PWC.
“My crew, the guys who have worked on my car for the last two years, it’s good to be working with the same guys for two years directly,” he said. “In general, I really like everyone on the team.
“It’s great spirits in terms of working, setup-wise and engineering-wise we have a very strong group, very intelligent.
“I like [team owner] Jim [Haughey] a lot. He loves racing and loves to see his cars doing well.
“He’s ambitious, and when he gets into a project he really wants to win races and do well and have the car up there on the grid, and that’s the same way I feel.
“I like these sprint races, I also like endurance races, but I really enjoy these sprint ones too. At the same time, there’s a lot of talent and good drivers.
“It’s very challenging and hard races to win. The races are sometimes a little bit aggressive, but with most of the front runners it’s quite clean. I like that style of racing.
“I like the race tracks we go to, the format, and I’ve been enjoying myself a lot with those guys in World Challenge. Close racing, I think that’s what racing’s all about.”
With a full-season of sprint racing on the cards in PWC, Parente is set to branch out into IMSA with MSR next season.
He said that his relationship with K-PAX teammate Bryan Sellers helped get the ball rolling on his Patron Endurance Cup deal that will see him make his WeatherTech Championship debut in next month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“I was talking to [Bryan] about IMSA, he was telling me about it and some of the racing over there, and I told him I’d like to do Daytona, Petit Le Mans, and Sebring for sure,” Parente said.
“I had a contact with Mike Shank and spoke to him a little on the phone, and we both wanted to do something. I already was well informed of Mike and what he does. He’s a real racer. Everything just fell together.
“I think he spoke to Bryan a little bit about my style of racing and then it all came together.
“I’m really happy for that too and excited for these races that I haven’t done before that I wanted to do. It’s coming together real nicely. I feel very lucky to have these programs.”
Parente Interested in Le Mans Return
A two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans starter, Parente indicated that he would be interested in a return to La Sarthe alongside his roles with K-PAX and MSR should the opportunity present itself.
“Obviously Le Mans is always a race, I’ve done it twice now and finished it once, it’s a race that I always want to do again if I can and try to get a really good result there,” he said.
“Unfortunately this year my teammate got stuck in the gravel trap for a couple of laps so we couldn’t fight for a good position, but I enjoyed my stints.
“But at the moment, I have these two programs and I’m very happy with what’s going on. I’m focussing very hard because there are a lot of new things to learn and that’s what I’m focussed on doing.”