ALVARO PARENTE, 2016 GT CHAMPION
t’s a big ask for even the most professional
MEET THE PARENTE
of racers: head to a different continent, to
race with an unfamiliar team, on a bunch of
tracks you haven’t seen before, against a
stacked field brimming with local knowledge
and experience. And while you’re at it, win
the championship for us. Oh, and thanks.
But that’s pretty much what’s expected
of a factory GT driver in modern racing.
Last year, Frenchman Kevin Estre
McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente was on a mission in 2016: win Pirelli
World Challenge GT at a first attempt. Come season’s end, it was box ticked.
“It’s important the factory
drivers are competitive –
our role is to enhance the
make we represent”
year that McLaren gave me was to do
Pirelli World Challenge, and also the
Blancpain Sprint Series. I only knew one
race track in the States – Laguna Seca. All
the rest were new to me. It was a big
challenge, but it went great.
“Of course, it’s important the factory
drivers are competitive, because our role
is to enhance the make we represent.”
Parente demonstrated the kind of driver
he is right off the bat at the Circuit of The
Americas season opener. Things weren’t
going the team’s way in Texas, but to
make the most of a bad weekend, recover
nicely, and keep plugging away while you
find your feet and start running toward
the front speaks much about a driver.
“I had quite a tough time on my first race
weekend,” says Parente. “We had a
technical issue with the engine and only got
it sorted coming into qualifying. It was good
we did a pre-season test there, because we
still qualified fourth, which wasn’t too bad.
“There was a lot of close racing going
on, and I’m used to all that, but certain
things took some getting used to. The
racing room issue, for example. Each race
director has a little bit of a different
opinion. I had an issue with [Cadillac
driver Michael] Cooper that weekend, and
I had to adapt to these small differences.
looked impressive for McLaren in Pirelli
World Challenge GT, coming into the
K-PAX Racing team run by Flying Lizard
Motorsports and taking five race wins
on his way to fifth in final GT points.
In 2016, it was fellow McLaren factory
pilot Alvaro Parente’s turn to give it a shot
for K-PAX, and the Portuguese delivered a
GT title in improbable circumstances.
“As a McLaren factory driver for the
last five years, I got sent to the States,”
Parente explains. “My program for this
WORDS & IMAGES Richard S. James
It didn’t take Parente
long to get dialed in
to PWC racing. A
double win at Lime
Rock (TOP) was just
part of a heavy-scoring summer
streak. (ABOVE) New
GT champion Parente
and title rival Pat
Long in mutual
disbelief after a
strange and thriling
finale at Laguna Seca.