K-PAX Racing locks-up Team Championship with double-podium
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – K-PAX Racing put an exclamation point on the final chapter of the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Sprint GT season Sunday, earning a double-podium with both its Bentley Continental GT3s at Watkins Glen International. From pole, Brazilian talent Rodrigo Baptista completed a sweep of the weekend while teammate Álvaro Parente rounded-out the top-three.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” said K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law when Baptista crossed the finish line. “When we moved him into GT3 at the start of the year, we knew he was a highly talented driver, and he’s progressed all year. To close out the final race of the season with two poles and two wins in a dominating fashion… what more can I say? I’m proud of him. We’re looking forward to what he can do in the future.”
Baptista hit all his marks throughout the PWC Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance weekend, leading every lap from pole in two rounds of competition against the series’ most elite drivers. The last time K-PAX Racing swept a Pro Sprint GT weekend was last season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, when Parente sealed the sweep by nearly a seven-second margin in the event finale.
In the eighth and ninth round of Sprint GT, Baptista won by more than a 10-second margin. He claimed the event finale by 12.507 seconds over the 10-car field. Baptista said his primary focus in each round was to create an early gap with consistent lap times and once he got into a rhythm, to never look back.
“I looked back a little bit during the first couple laps, and then I just looked ahead and went for it,” Baptista said. “I did my best, and I was surprised every time they said the gap. I was a little bit faster, and it was good. I didn’t know what happened [in the first turn]. I just tried to make a gap out of the first turn like I did yesterday.”
Behind Baptista in the first turn of the finale, a multi-car incident shook up the field. Both K-PAX Racing Continental GT3s were able to escape the carnage – especially Parente who had to swiftly dodge the spinning No. 31 TR3 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniel Mancinelli ahead of him. Parente said he chose to veer to the right-side to avoid contact and from there ensued a race-long battle with the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Scott Hargrove.
“I chose to go to the right side and just avoided him,” Parente said. “Scott went to the left and had a run. He went to second and did a great job defending. I couldn’t quite get him there. The only place I had a chance was through the ‘Bus Stop’ but there, it’s tricky when you’re to the left. Good job – especially to my teammate Rodrigo. He did a great job this weekend.”
After escaping two near race-ending collisions with the No. 31 in the first corners of the 50-minute race, Parente spent the duration of the race battling for second. He stayed within four-tenths of a second behind Hargrove, gaining the most ground into the fifth turn – the “Bus Stop” chicane on the back-straightaway. Parente was unable to find enough real-estate to make the pass, ultimately finishing three-tenths of a second from runner-up. Following the race, Hargrove said he “looked in the mirror more than the windshield” with how much pressure the Portuguese talent was giving him.
“Álvaro as far as I’m concerned is one of the best GT drivers in the world,” Law said. “You have to hand it off to Hargrove. He was under pressure the entire time, and those guys had a good car. Álvaro had certain sectors where he was quicker and Hargrove’s car was quicker in other areas. But it was an honest, clean fight to the end. We’re happy to come home with two cars on the podium.”
Baptista earned his first victories in the series’ Pro classes this weekend, helping K-PAX Racing to its second PWC Team Championship in three seasons. After nine rounds of Sprint GT, the team bested 15 other teams for the title, beating Pfaff Motorsports by a seven-point spread. K-PAX Racing concluded the Sprint GT season with five wins,10 podiums and six poles (including GTA).
In a sensational drive throughout the weekend, Baptista not only started on the pole in both races from his quick lap times, but he also set the series’ record race lap with a 1:44.151 from the opener. In Saturday’s qualifying session, he was the only driver to cross the start-finish line under the 1:43.000 mark with a record 1:42.780.
“I didn’t think I was going to win a race this year in the Pro class because it was my first year in GT3 cars, but I improved a lot,” Baptista said. “I did it. I’m really happy for that. It’s the best way to end the season. We still have Laguna Seca, but here in this championship it was a great way to finish. We did what we needed to do the same as yesterday, and the Continental GT3 was great again. Thanks again to K-PAX Racing for all their support.”
Álvaro Parente – No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 8th, Race 2 – 3rd) – “The start was a key moment there. I got an all right start. I had a run on Mario [Farnbacher] and [Daniel] Mancinelli. I was pulling to the right, trying to force Mancinelli not to go right as well. He still did quite aggressively, and if I kept the throttle down I would’ve spun him around, I would’ve spun me around and everyone else. It would’ve been a big mess if I kept the throttle. It wouldn’t have made sense to keep the throttle down, but at the same time he shouldn’t have gone to the right like that. We touched a tiny bit, so I backed off. It was a harder race for me because following a car is always bad. I didn’t have a clear shot at passing [Scott] Hargrove. But, I am happy for the team.”
Rodrigo Baptista – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 1st, Race 2 – 1st) – “It’s the best way to end the season. We still have Laguna Seca (California 8 Hours), but here in this championship it was a great way to finish. We did what we needed to do the same as yesterday, and the Continental GT3 was great again. Thanks again to K-PAX Racing for all their support.”