Earns first career Pro Sprint GT win
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – At the start of the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), Rodrigo Baptista’s goal as an amateur was to compete with the series’ top-drivers. Now in its elite classes as a pro, Baptista showcased his race-craft Saturday by dominating in the eighth round of Sprint GT at Watkins Glen International. From pole position, Baptista won by nearly a 12-second margin.
“I started the year in the amateur class, and then they promoted me to Pro,” said Baptista in Victory Lane, smiling ear-to-ear. “The pole and the win mean a lot to me. This is really good for my career. I’m at loss for words.”
From the start of the race week, the young-talent from São Paulo, Brazil was able to use the strengths of the team’s No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 to record some of the field’s quickest lap times. In qualifying, Baptista was the only driver of a 10-car field to cross the start-finish line under the 1:43.000-mark. His 1:42.780 lap-time was enough for pole position – more than a half-second quicker than the next car in line. Teammate Álvaro Parente, driver of the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, qualified third overall with a 1:43.479.
K-PAX Racing’s two Continental GT3s secured the bottom of the first two rows for the opening round of the Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance. At the drop of the green flag, Baptista continued his strong showing by solidifying the top-spot into the first corner, then consistently extending his lead throughout the 50-minute race.
By the 10-minute mark, Baptista was one of two cars to record a time under 1:45.000. He set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:44.182 at that time and approaching the halfway point, he extended his lead to nearly 10 seconds. Baptista ultimately won by a 11.983 margin and set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:44.151, giving him pole for the event finale.
Baptista is no stranger to earning an overall win, though this particular one is his first overall Sprint GT victory as a Pro driver in the series. Earlier in the season, Baptista impressed in the series’ SprintX season by winning the overall with co-driver Max Soulet at VIRginia International Raceway.
Parente, who started third on the grid, lost a few positions at the start of the race but battled back to the podium. In the closing minutes of the race, K-PAX Racing was on its way to a double-podium in the opener. However, Parente’s No. 9 car suffered a left-front flat, forcing him to pit two laps early.
“It’s really unfortunate at the end there,” said K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law. “We had two cars that were podium-bound at the end. It’s too bad that Álvaro got a flat. Rodrigo has been on it from the start of the weekend. It was a solid run for him. He’s been fast from the minute we rolled out of the truck, and I’m so happy and proud of him. He’s driving phenomenally.”
After eight rounds of Sprint GT, K-PAX Racing jumps to the top of the Team Championship standings by five points. In the Sprint GT Drivers’ Championship, Parente chases a top-three finish, trailing by 16 points.
K-PAX Racing will conclude the 2018 PWC season Sunday with the Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance finale at Watkins Glen International. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 8th) – “It was a difficult race. We didn’t get the best out of the first corners, but we managed to get back up to third. Unfortunately, we had a puncture at the end. The last races haven’t gone as planned, but we keep trying. I hope our luck will turn around.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st) – “Since the first practice, we knew the car was quick. For the second practice I put on the new tires for three laps then stopped because I knew the car was good. The qualifying session was the same. For the race, I just did my best. The team did a great job. Our Continental GT3 was perfect. I think the track suits the car really well. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, and I’ll do the same thing I did today. Let’s make a gap and bring the car home.”