Baptista Earns Double Podium at St. Petersburg; Finishes second in the event finale
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – K-PAX Racing made a strong case in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) GTA class Sunday by earning its second podium in St. Petersburg (Fla.) – with a driver who made his debut in the class in the first two rounds of the season. Rodrigo Baptista, driver of the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3, achieved a double-podium over the weekend with two second-place finishes.
“We were really proud of Rodrigo,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “In his debut weekend in the GTA class, he came home with a second-place finish both days. It speaks a lot about the potential of his abilities, and we look forward to fighting for the championship this year.”
Baptista recorded the fastest lap in GTA Saturday, and he continued his swift pace through the weekend. Starting second among the GTA field in the finale, Baptista defended his position for 26 laps. Baptista said the track conditions were more adverse than Saturday, but his Continental GT3 still reacted well in warmer weather.
“Two second-place finishes made this weekend really good for me,” Baptista said. “But, we still need to work more on the car, and we can do better. It was good for the first race weekend of the season – very good. The race conditions were different from yesterday because it was warmer today, which made it a little more difficult to maintain a fast pace. But, I think my race pace was very good. Overall, it’s good to go back home with two trophies and two podiums. I’m feeling good.”
The weekend was memorable for Baptista – in more ways than standing on the podium after both races. His parents were there to celebrate his success in the GT3 ranks. Baptista said having the support from his parents at the track motivated him, and that celebrating with them after each race made the weekend “that much more special.”
For most of the finale, Baptista continually defended his spot from a hard-charging Spencer Pumpelly of the No. 00 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. Baptista shut the door on Pumpelly’s advances by mirroring his every move whenever he made a push. In a last attempt by Pumpelly with less than 30 minutes left on the clock, Baptista swept down into the second turn and successfully maintained track position.
Álvaro Parente, driver of the No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3, started seventh among Pro drivers. Within the first 10 minutes of the race, the 2016 PWC Series Champion strategically dove under the No. 19 TruSpeed AutoSport Audi R8 LMS of Parker Chase in his pursuit to the front. Parente climbed to as high as sixth overall before an incident in the 10th turn of the course not only retired the car with 12 minutes remaining, but also ended the race prematurely.
“As we mentioned earlier in the weekend with starting the season on a street course: There are risks involved when there isn’t any run-off as we saw,” Law said. “It was a tough weekend for the No. 9 car and Álvaro, but we’ll take a look and review the data. We’ll move on from there and be ready for COTA.”
K-PAX Racing will head to Austin, Tex. March 23-25 for the PWC SprintX opener at Circuit of The Americas (COTA). For more information, visit world-challenge.com.