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Factory Driver Alvaro Parente kicked off his Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) title defence in the best possible fashion at the opening round of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida over the weekend. The Portuguese driver took victory in the opening race of the 2017 campaign, and narrowly missed a podium, finishing P4 in Race 2 for customer team K-PAX Racing in the #9 McLaren 650S GT3.

Parente began the weekend well, qualifying P3 on the grid with a 1:13.990 lap of the 2.9-km street course, which was an identical time to the P2 sitter. This strong performance set him up for a good result in Race 1, climibing to P2 at Turn 1 up the inside before making a bold dive into Turn 4 later on the opening lap to take the lead. From there he was untouchable, crossing the line 10.1 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. As well as his first PWC win of 2017, his achievement also marked the first victory of the year for the 650S GT3. Further down the order, Parente’s K-PAX Racing teammate Bryan Sellers also had an impressive race, claiming P5 in the #6 650S GT3.

Race 2 saw Parente secure another positive result. Starting the race second, he briefly held the lead down into Turn 1 at the start, but running wide caused him to slip to P7. Undeterred by the setback, the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge champion fought his way back into the top five places, and was able to challenge for a podium spot during the second half of the race, though a full-course caution in the final minutes prevented a final charge. He crossed the line P4, scoring enough points to secure second in the points standings heading into Round 2 at Long Beach.

Race 2 was a positive one for Parente’s K-PAX Racing teammate Mike Hedlund too, who steered his #98 650S GT3 to P3 in the GTA class, and P11 overall. It was an impressive run in his first race weekend with the car.

The McLaren 570S GT4 was also in action over the weekend racing in the PWC-supprting GTS races. Two examples of the McLaren Sports Series model were entered into the series’ GTSA class, and scored three top five finishes.

In Race 1, customer team KPR with Mark Klenin at the wheel of the 570S GT4 finished P4 in class, while GMG Racing secured P5 in Race 1 and improved to secure a podium finish in Race 2 with driver George Kurtz up against a strong field. The P3 finish marks the first podium of the season for the 570S GT4.

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