The majority of K-PAX Racing’s U.S. crew have arrived in Europe and have successfully cleared border and immigration control ahead of this weekend’s GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season-opener at Imola.
The California-based team, which is undertaking its first season of European racing with a pair of Bentley Continental GT3s, had faced challenges amid current travel restrictions for American citizens entering the European Union due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, according to program manager Darren Law, the team has been able to gain entry through a provision for entities that are essential to the operation of European businesses.
A total of 12 crew arrived last weekend to prep the Bentleys at its satellite shop in Germany, with four additional team members, including Law, set to fly directly to Italy on Monday.
“Everybody has been unbelievable in providing documentation,” Law told Sportscar365. “We’ve got documentation from Bentley stating that we’re essential to the operation of their racing program.
“We’ve got documentation from the FIA, clarifying that this is a sanctioned event and we have documentation from SRO about the event and that we’ve been invited to race.
“We have so many people supporting us. It hasn’t gone without some challenges. Obviously [border control] questioned the situation for several of the guys who are there already, but they saw all of the documentation.
“The crew guys have had to provide a lot of the documentation to customs and immigration. So far it’s been positive.”
Law said they had worked out a contingency plan with Bentley to support the program with crew if they were missing personnel, although it doesn’t appear to be necessary for this weekend.
“We’ve got enough guys there to run the program,” he said.
While overcoming the international travel hurdle, Law admitted this weekend’s race will be a “learning curve” for the team, especially after not getting any pre-season testing in Europe.
K-PAX withdrew from the GTWC Europe official test at Paul Ricard in mid-March when U.S. President Donald Trump announced an imminent border closure to Europe.
“It’s definitely not good that we couldn’t run it. Obviously we had to pull out for safety reasons because of COVID,” Law explained.
“The other teams got at least a day of running, so they might have a bit of an advantage.
“We’re expecting to do well but we’re not overly confident. This is a new series [for us] with all-new tracks and a different program.
“It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve but we have a good group of guys that have worked well together.
“All of the drivers have been pleased with the cars when they’ve come over to the U.S. and have driven them. We’ll see how it goes.”
With M-Sport not taking part in the Endurance Cup this year, K-PAX has become Bentley’s leading customer team, with factory drivers Maxime Soulet, Jules Gounon and Jordan Pepper joining team regulars Alvaro Parente, Rodrigo Baptista and Andy Soucek in the two-car operation.
Law said the U.S.-based crew plans to fly back and forth over the course of the four-round season because of the gaps in the revised schedule.
“They’ll do prep work after the race then come back to the states,” he explained. “It then obviously depends what happens with everything going on these days.
“But obviously the plan is to go onto the next event.
“We were planning on the full program. What is nice is that we’ve got good space between the events. The Imola race is July, then we go to Nürburgring in September.
“Then the next one is not until Spa in October. So we’ve got a little bit of a gap there between them, which is nice.
“I guess it makes it easy for our first time to run this program in Europe.”
K-PAX GTWC America Return “Unknown”
Law said the status of its GTWC America program remains up in the air after the team withdrew from the recent event at Virginia International Raceway due to COVID-19 concerns.
When asked if its Bentley will be on the grid for the next round at Sonoma Raceway, Law said it’s “still unknown.”
Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne were due to take part in a full-season effort in the car.
“We’re still working on that one and discussing it,” Law said. “We’ll probably have an answer shortly.”