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Soucek: Qualifying to be “Key” in Las Vegas Passing Challenge

Blancpain GT World Challenge America drivers give first impression of Las Vegas Roval…

Photo: Brian Cleary/SRO America

K-PAX Racing’s Andy Soucek believes qualifying will be “key” for this weekend’s Blancpain GT World Challenge America season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway due to the lack of passing opportunities on the unique track layout.

The majority of drivers got their first taste of the 2.51-mile, 12-turn roval in testing Thursday morning, hours after the circuit received final homologation approval from the FIA.

Soucek, who is looking to help take the California-based team to the Pro teams’ championship, said he was pleasantly surprised with the track design, which sees cars run on the apron sections of the oval.

“I was expecting a lot worse when we did the track walk yesterday,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s not a bad layout. I quite enjoyed myself.

“I’ve never had a corner like Turn 3 where you go almost flat into a long and fast corner that’s not banked.

“Then the infield section is quite cool. The grip level is not great but the curbs are very low so you can really lean on the curbs. There’s a specific way to drive the track, it’s quite technical.”

When asked about passing opportunities, the Bentley factory driver admitted it could pose a major challenge this weekend.

“It will be tough if you’re two-tenths faster than the guy in front,” Soucek said. “It may not be enough to make a move.

“With the low grip level, when you brake, you don’t have a lot of brake efficiency, so it’s very easy to brake too late and go wide. 

“I think qualifying will be key for this race.”

Colin Braun, who was part of a private test at the track last weekend in his DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, said track limits are likely to play a factor.

Drivers have been instructed to no go over the white line after the start/finish line, which Braun has predicted as a trouble spot.

“If you have to be below the line before the start/finish, that really takes away the passing opportunity,” Braun told Sportscar365.

“For me it kind of reminds me of what a Talladega NASCAR race is like when you can’t be below the yellow line because if you’re side-by-side with somebody and you get to the point where you have to be down to one lane, I don’t know how that’s going to work. 

“Somebody’s going to have to give up or somebody’s going to get a penalty or whatever.

“I think they’ll have to work through figuring that out. I’m sure they will.”

Braun added that the oval section of the track is also quite unique.

“I’ve never done anything like this before where we’ve not used the oval part of a roval except the apron,” he said.  “With the GT3 cars, it’s flat on both ends, probably for everybody.”

Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, meanwhile, said the track is “not dissimilar” to a street course, particularly with the different types of asphalt and transitions.

“I have to say it’s not much different of a mindset to street tracks,” he told Sportscar365.

“You just have to have yourself in that mindset that the surfaces are ever-changing and there’s definitely some safety hurdles.

“You have to be mindful about transitioning back into the infield.

“There’s a lot of exposed tires. Hopefully we’ll go to work on that a little bit tonight. They’ve asked us for some feedback so we’ll be working with them.”

Renger van der Zande, who is making his first GT World Challenge America start in four years in the No. 07 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 GT3, agreed with Soucek in finding the track to be quite enjoyable.

“It’s very slippery,” he said. “At the same time, if you don’t look around yourself and you stay in the white lines, it’s good. 

“There’s low-speed, medium-speed… there’s a bit of everything. I’m surprised at how much fun it is. It’s more fun that I expected.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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