Alvaro Parente is on a roll. The K-PAX Racing driver has scored four podiums in his last five races and has established the McLaren 650S GT3 as a championship-contending platform in Pirelli World Challenge competition.
The Portuguese driver earned his breakthrough World Challenge win on the streets of Long Beach after Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac was dinged post-race for over boost, promoting Parente and the K-PAX team to the top step of the podium.
But Barber Motorsports Park this past weekend, Parente raced the McLaren to the front in Race 1.
After grabbing the lead from the pole-sitting Cadillac of Michael Cooper in Turn 1, Parente led the rest of the way to grab a second-straight win.
Speaking on this week’s Sportscar365 Double Stint Podcast, Parente said winning the race outright was rewarding for the team.
“It was very successful weekend,” he told Sportscar365. “It was great to be on the top spot of the podium.”
The fastest race lap on Saturday meant Parente started on pole for Race 2, but Cooper was able to slip by on the outside and take the lead in the opening sequence just as Parente had the day before.
“I hesitated a little on the first braking,” he said. “I braked off line, so I couldn’t brake as late as possible, and Cooper got me around the outside in Turn 1 and then he had the inside for Turn 2.
“We couldn’t get him back even though I think we were stronger from the mid-to-end part of the race, but still couldn’t pass him.
“The strategy we opted for with tire pressures was to be strong at the middle and end of the race, and in the beginning maybe we weren’t quite there with the tires to do that attack in Turn 1.”
A win and a second place at the Barber rounds has Parente in third place in the points standings, 25 points behind championship-leader Johnny O’Connell.
And he has done this while driving for a new team on a new continent, and on tracks that are new to him as well.
The McLaren GT factory driver was quick to praise his team in easing his transition.
“I’m still adapting to one or two new things over here that are a little bit different than what I’m used to, but it’s going well,” he said.
“It’s a very professional team. The team is helping me all the time. The car is great, I know the car very well.
“The new situations are really working with the team, two or three different rules that you have over here, and all the new tracks that I’m adapting quickly to.
“It’s challenging, but I like these new situations where you have to get on pace very quickly.”
Parente indicated that he is enjoying his racing in PWC, and lauded the recent news that the SRO would be taking a financial stake in the U.S.-based championship.
“I think that’s great news and I hope more cars more drivers from there come to do this championship,” Parente said. “It’s very competitive, very strong, and challenging to win races.
“It’s difficult, and that’s what we want: competitive, close racing.
“I think it’s great news to see that the SRO is coming over here and taking part, working together with this championship to bring more cars, more manufactures, and more pro drivers to this championship.”
K-PAX Racing’s success in PWC has dovetailed with an impressive start to the season for McLaren in GT racing worldwide.
Parente, co-driving with Jonathon Webb and Shane Van Gisbergen, won the Bathurst 12 Hour back in February, and Garage 59 scored a breakthrough win in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup competition last week in Monza.
Parente said it has been very gratifying to have a hand in the great start for the marque.
“The start of the year was incredible in Bathurst,” he said. “It was great to start the year like that in such a challenging race at a beautiful race track that. To win, what can I say? It’s the best thing.
“The car winning so many races already is a great accomplishment and very rewarding for everyone who’s driving the car and helping to get it where it is now.”