The Pirelli World Challenge campaign had a “big black cloud” sitting over the head of 2016 GT champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal.
Entering this year, Parente had scored ten GT victories in in 2016 and 2017, as well as leading K-PAX Racing to the driver, team and manufacturer titles in his rookie PWC season, while just missing out on the GT Sprint and overall titles last year.
When K-PAX switched from McLaren to Bentley this year, Parente was ready for the challenge. But he wasn’t ready for the devastation about to hit him and his race car.
At St. Petersburg, a mechanical issue on his No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 sent Parente and his machine into a tire barrier at some 100 miles per hour.
Then last month at VIR, Parente was knocked into a tire barrier by another car. In both occasions, the Bentleys were basically totaled.
“To say that my PWC season started badly would be an understatement,” said Parente.
“We lost two cars early in the year and I wasn’t sure if we could get a car ready for CTMP and Lime Rock weekends. But a quick find by the Bentley factory had a car shipped to us from Malaysia.”
The newest Bentley GT3 machine arrived from Asia at VIR to be prepared for the Victoria Day Speedfest.
“The K-PAX team did a magnificent job getting the new Bentley ready for action,” said Parente. “We were fast on Friday in the dry (track), but Saturday’s first GT race was in the rain. We just couldn’t get the power to the ground in the race. So, the team made a big decision.”
With Parente and teammate Rodrigo Baptista running near the rear of the field with a rain-drenched track, the K-PAX squad played a new strategy – pulling in both drivers for slick tires and hope the track dries out. And that is exactly what happened late in the 50-minute race.
“I felt like the track was drying pretty quickly,” he said. “The crew called us into the pits. We got the slicks on the Bentley and made the call to concentrate on Sunday’s race.”
That proved to make the difference as the Bentleys set the quickest laps on Saturday, and as a result, lined up on the front row in Sunday’s 50-minute sprint.
“I was going to grab that lead as soon as possible,” said Parente. “The car was excellent there in the dry, and I was hoping to pull Rodrigo along with me. The new Bentley ran flawlessly throughout the whole race Sunday.”
And Parente was back on top of the winner’s circle with his 11th career PWC GT win.
“The strategy on Saturday helped us win on Sunday,” he admitted. “And Rodrigo made it a 1-2 finish for K-PAX. After our tough start to the season, this finish was important to the whole team. This win goes to them for the hard work in preparing the new Bentley for this weekend.”
In addition to Parente’s GT win, Baptista, the 21-year-old Brazilian star, also won his GTA division Sunday at CTMP. He also won both of his GTS races last year at Lime Rock Park.
“I’m anxious to return to Lime Rock after last year’s event,” said Baptista. “That is a great track and I believe the Bentley can be a good car there. After the CTMP performance, the team has the car in great shape.”
Parente scored both GT wins at Lime Rock Park in 2016 for K-PAX Racing in his championship season.
“I really enjoy the Lime Rock track,” said Parente. “I would love to continue our recent success there this coming weekend.”