Defending World Challenge Champion K-PAX Racing headed to St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Pirelli World Challenge double header looking for a strong start to the season. The 1.8 mile temporary street course just off the waterfront in downtown St Petersburg saw a record field of 49 cars take the green flag to start the two morning practice sessions.
2010 World Challenge Drivers Champion, Randy Pobst once again got behind the wheel of his K-PAX Volvo S60 and did what he has done so well over his career and put his car at the top of the time sheets in the morning practice leading the entire field with a track record time of 1:16.373.
K-PAX has added two Volvo C30s to their stable of Volvos for the 2011 season. Veteran pro drivers Robb Holland and Aaron Povoledo spent the past several weeks working with the K-PAX crew to get the cars up and running for their St. Petersburg debut. Results of the morning practice sessions were mixed for the new C30’s, with Povoledo taking an encouraging 8th. Holland missed the morning session with mechanical issues that were resolved in time for him to place 12th in the second practice session.
Heading into GT Qualifying with the top 6 cars separated by less than 1 second it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top in the GT class. At the end the Porsche of Patrick Long snatched the pole on the last lap with a 1:15.071. Pobst finished up the session in 4th, less than 7 tenths of a second off the fastest time. “The new Pirelli slicks have changed the balance of power in the class. AWD is not the advantage it was before. And we're working on it. But I’m confident that my guys at K-PAX are up to the task and we’ll be back at the front in no time.” said Pobst.
The C30’s took the track for Qualifying looking to improve on their morning times but with the strong Florida sun brought rising temperatures which caused the C30’s to lose power compared to the early sessions run in cooler temperatures. Povoledo and Holland finished in 9th and 11th respectively just over 2 seconds off the Tristian Herbert’s pole setting time of 1:25.899.
Holland was optimistic of the C30’s potential. “Of course it would be nice if we were further up the field but we have to be realistic, we have only had a few test days in these cars and we knew that it was going to take a few races to get up to speed. The K-PAX Volvo C30 is an awesome platform and we know that both the car and the team have the proven ability to win races.”
Povoledo echoed those thoughts: “I’m having to balance my excitement with how good this car was out of the box with the realistic patience needed in developing a car this new. I know these cars will win races, just give us some time. We’re improving the handling characteristics every session.”
K-PAX Racing GT Driver Randy Pobst capitalized on his fourth place qualifying position and his Volvo S60’s all wheel drive system to jump to the lead by turn one at the start of Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge Race.
Pobst kept his lead until lap five and set the race’s fastest lap of 1:16.163 (85.080MPH) on lap four. On lap five, the Porsche of Patrick Long got past on the outside of turn ten as Randy got held up by slower traffic. The Corvette of Mike Skeen squeezed by two laps later leaving Randy in third position until the yellow flag restart on lap eighteen.
Randy, falling back on the restart, said “The exceptionally slow restart caught the car in between gears and we lost a lot of positions, but before the end of the race we got a lot of those positions back.” Randy finished the race in fifth position.
Randy will start on the Pole of Sunday’s race because of his fastest race lap time. Look to see Randy up front.
Aaron Povoledo, making his first start for K-PAX Racing, qualified his Volvo C30 Touring Car, ninth on the grid. The font wheel drive of the C30 provided an excellent launch and some very late braking around the outside of corner one put Povoledo’s car in fourth place by turn two.
Povoledo ran as high as third and finished forth at the chequered flag.
“Now that was a street fight!” proclaimed Povoledo after the race. “I am absolutely elated with a hard fought fourth place finish. I just cannot thank the crew at K-PAX enough for the endless hours and engineering they have put into this car and wow, the real world usable torque of this Volvo is great!”
Starting from the sixth row on the grid, Robb Holland got a great start passing six cars in the opening two laps. From there it was a pretty adventurous day for Holland. “We lost ABS on lap two so it was a battle just trying to get the car slowed down on every corner. The Volvo ABS system is so good that you really miss it when it’s gone!” Holland was able to bring the car home in ninth place completing the trifecta with all the K-PAX Racing Volvo’s finishing the day in the top ten.
K-PAX Racing GT Driver Randy Pobst starting on the pole for race two of the St Petersburg Pirelli World Challenge Race took advantage of the Volvo S60’s all wheel drive system and led the field of 46 cars into turn one.
Randy kept his lead until lap three when the Porsche of James Sofranos passed on the front straight. On lap 6 the Porsche of eventual race winner Patrick Long used the draft of the Volvo on the front straight to get by Pobst.
Randy maintained third position for the next twenty three laps and with 3 laps to go radioed in saying “I think something is wrong with the right front.” On the next left hander something gave way on the right front putting the car into the concrete barrier.
Randy bounced off the wall and came to rest nearly in the apex of the blind turn with high speed traffic just narrowly missing him both on the left and right before Randy got the car to safety.
Randy speaking after the race said, “Something in the suspension broke and the car turned into the wall. I had no control. I’m so glad the cars coming from behind were able to avoid me!”