Amidst the plethora of changes leading into the third and fourth rounds of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS Championship, K-PAX Racing remained undeterred in its goal of defending the title. The team was a quick study in its few days and limited track time at NOLA Motorsports Park, and under challenging circumstances, K-PAX Racing showed its seemingly limitless potential in creating results. The team scored a one-two finish during Saturday’s opening round and in its track debut.
“We could not have ended that race better,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “Hats off to Michele [Beretta] and Misha [Goikhberg] for putting in a great qualifying effort. They both ran amazing stints and kept us out front. And of course, Andrea [Caldarelli] and Jordan [Pepper] brought it home. It got a little tight at the end after a full-course caution with just few laps to go. Again, congratulations to all the guys and the effort they put in. It’s nice to come away with the points we did.”
K-PAX Racing restructured its program, adhering to the new series regulations change which required that all Pro-level entries must carry one FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) Silver rated driver. This saw the dynamic driver pairing of Pepper and Caldarelli split into the team’s two Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs. Goikhberg welcomed Pepper to the No. 3, while Caldarelli and the team introduced Beretta to the No. 1. The revised program was ready to take centerstage for the team’s 25th new series track since 2007.
K-PAX Racing was in traditional form despite its four drivers learning a brand-new course. In Thursday’s first practice session, the No. 1 topped the charts with a 1:34.248. Qualifying Friday morning shared its own bright spots, highlighted by Beretta’s quick leap to the top of the time charts in the first session. Beretta put the No. 1 on pole for the event opener with a time of 1:34.067. Goikhberg also secured podium position to start the third round, earning the third-quickest time of 1:35.258. Fourth round qualifying saw Caldarelli rank sixth (second in class) with a time of 1:33.722, and Pepper close behind in seventh (third in class) with a 1:33.821.
“The tire pressure was good right away, so I knew I had to make a good first lap,” Beretta said. “I tried to improve a little bit in the rest of the run, but it wasn’t possible because the pressure was a little higher. But we secured pole. Unfortunately, it was a little tough for Andrea in the second session. It’s always good when you jump out and see that you made a great lap – clean, with no mistakes.”
Clouds loomed over the track, teasing the possibility of a wet race; however, track conditions remained dry for the running start, which kicked off the series’ first edition at NOLA. Beretta was quick on the throttle – so was Goikhberg, who took over the second spot. K-PAX Racing was one- two almost instantly, before a full-course yellow from an incident in the opening sequence momentarily halted the action.
Goikhberg was quick to defend second in the first corners of the restart, allowing the team’s sister- car to pull away to more than a two-second buffer. The No. 3 was also able to break away to about a 1.5 second gap from third after finding its rhythm. One-third of the way through the 90-minute campaign, Beretta continued to control the race by leading by more than 10 seconds. Goikhberg also created space from the field, steadily holding just under a six-second advantage over third. A battle for third, which resulted in an incident, contributed to the team’s growing margins.
Both K-PAX Racing Huracán GT3 EVOs made an early pit at the window, the No. 1 trading off to Caldarelli and the No. 3 Pepper. Caldarelli managed the 20-second gap his co-driver left him, while Pepper battled through lapped traffic, continuing to keep a charge from third position at bay. The two cars extended their splits until a full-course yellow with about 20 minutes remaining regrouped the field. While the margins were diminished, two lap cars separated the K-PAX Racing cars for the restart. The safety car paced the field until there was roughly four minutes remaining. Complete chaos ensued, with multi-car battles challenging the drivers. Both cars were able to fully break free into the white flag, ultimately finishing on top. K-PAX Racing has started the season with a three- race winning streak.
NOLA Motorsport Park is now the 19th course where the team has recorded a podium performance in its debut and 10th where it was victorious. K-PAX Racing continues the trend, having podiumed at all 25 series tracks it has visited in its history. NOLA is the 23rd North American series course where the team has recorded a win.
The green flag is scheduled to drop on Round 4 of GT World Challenge America at 1:15 p.m. local. Visit gt-world-challenge-america.com for more event information. All races are streamed live and archived for on-demand viewing at www.youtube.com/gtworld or www.twitch.tv/sromotorsports. SRO America championships also feature broadcasts on CBS Sports.
Andrea Caldarelli – No. 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “I think we got the maximum out of today. We knew from qualifying that we were not the quickest car out there, but we made a bit of progress in the race. We always have to keep working to improve, because we want to get there – mostly with pace. We used this race as a little bit of a test. Michele [Beretta] did an amazing job to give me a good lead, and then I used the gap to learn a little bit more about the car. But after the safety car [at the end], it was ‘race on’ again. It was a great job by the guys. It’s a really hot weekend, but the guys stayed focused.”
Michele Beretta – No. 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 1st) – “It was a clean race for us. Even the safety car at the end could not stop us from this one-two result. My stint was good. The pace was there, and we got a gap. Andrea [Caldarelli] did a super stint. I think it was a perfect race – a good result for the team and the championship.”
Jordan Pepper – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race 1 – 2nd) – “Today’s job was done by Misha [Goikhberg]. He had an incredible start, and he held his own out there. He raced really well at a good speed, handing me the car in second. We were just controlling the gap to the guys behind. At the restart, I thought I could have a go at Andrea [Caldarelli] on the restart, but I had two back- markers in front of me, so that was a little disappointing of an ending. But second is still good. I lose the championship now that Andrea won, but maybe it goes back and forth. Congratulations to the guys on the one-two.”
Misha Goikhberg – No. 3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO (Race – 2nd) – “The goal was to at least get ahead of everyone else, and we were able to do that at the start. We had strong pace in the beginning. Unfortunately, I feel like I faded a little more than our sister car. It was tricky to drive at the end for me. We were able to hold off the No. 96 BMW, and from that point on, we really didn’t have a threat from behind.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 168 podiums, 68 wins, five Driver Championships, and four Team and Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class, K-PAX Racing has fielded Porsche 911 GT3s during the 2007 – 2008 seasons, Volvo S60s during the 2009 – 2013 seasons, McLaren 12C GT3s in 2014 and McLaren 650S GT3s from 2015 – 2017. The team made a switch to Bentley for 2018, fielding the first-generation Continental GT3 in its first season and the second-generation model in 2019 and 2020. K-PAX Racing debuted the 2021 season in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
About Lamborghini Squadra Corse
Squadra Corse is the motorsport department of Automobili Lamborghini. Born in 2013 within the Research & Development department, Squadra Corse provides an integrated approach to driving experiences of the brand; from driving course programs with road vehicles to motorsport competitions, through the Lamborghini Super Trofeo or championships of the GT class.
Esperienza is the first step for those who are interested in the world of Lamborghini: Its aim is to share the thrill and emotions of the super sports cars from Sant’Agata Bolognese with fans and potential customers alike, by advanced driving course programs. Esperienza Dinamica is divided into five programs in order to face every type of surface: Corsa, Neve, Sabbia, Strada, Terra. Esperienza Accademia is the program dedicated to advanced drivers, offering driving course programs not only on the racetrack but also on ice in order to improve the driving skills of the pilots.
The Lamborghini Super Trofeo is an international motor racing series with drivers competing in identical Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVOs, the racing version of the production model, that features the same 5.2 l naturally aspirated V10 engine. Inaugurated in 2009, Super Trofeo hosts regional championships in Europe, Asia and North America and is divided in four categories: Pro, Pro-Am, Am and Lamborghini Cup bringing together passionate gentleman drivers and young professional pilots. At the end of each season, the teams and drivers of all regions compete against each other in the World Finals, the highlight of the season.
The most challenging tests are those which see Lamborghini’s Customer Racing Teams competing in the principal international GT championships driving the Huracán GT3. The GT3 differs from the Huracán Super Trofeo EVO through its more sophisticated aerodynamics, kinematic suspension control and other technical specifications respecting official FIA regulations. In 2017 the Huracán GT3 won the Blancpain GT Series; in 2018 and 2019 the Huracán GT3 completed a double victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in GTD Class. Lamborghini is the only company in the world to win both of the prestigious races, that are also known as 36 Hours of Florida, in two consecutive years. Another premiere in 2019: The GT3 won the Triple Crown of the Blancpain GT Series with the titles in the categories Overall, Endurance and Sprint. In 2020 Lamborghini celebrated third victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona with sensational one-two finish.
Both the Huracán Super Trofeo and the Huracán GT3 are constructed and built at the plant in Sant'Agata Bolognese on the same production line as the road vehicles. Specialized technicians of the Lamborghini Squadra Corse are present at every station along the line.
Moreover, Lamborghini Squadra Corse is trying to develop new talents in motor sports, for example through the Young Drivers Program (open for drivers under 26 that will compete in the Super Trofeo championship) and the GT3 Junior Program (for future GT drivers). Both the programs aim to offer young drivers the possibility to improve their driving skills helping them to take a career as professional pilots.
In 2018 Squadra Corse inaugurated its first One-Off, the SC18 Alston, followed by open-top SC20 in 2020. In the same year Squadra Corse unveiled Essenza SCV12 the track-only hypercar in a limited edition of 40 units, fitted with the most powerful V12 naturally aspirated engine ever developed by Lamborghini: over 830 hp.