K-Pax Racing’s Rodrigo Baptista was the star of the show in the first race of the Pirelli World Challenge finale at Watkins Glen yesterday. The Brazilian converted pole position into a win, crossing the line 12 seconds ahead of the chasing pack in his #3 Bentley Continental GT3.
“I started the year in the amateur class, and then they promoted me to Pro,” said Baptista in Victory Lane. “The pole and the win mean a lot to me. This is really good for my career. I’m at loss for words.”
Toni Vilander meanwhile, managed to finish fourth and secure the PWC overall GT title (provisionally) in the R.Ferri Ferrari 488 GT3, a superb achievement in his first year racing in PWC.
In Qualifying, Baptista was the only driver in the 10-car field to set a time under the 1:43 mark. His best lap was a 1:42.780, and good enough for pole by over half a second. Teammate Álvaro Parente, driver of the #9 K-PAX Bentley Continental GT3, qualified third overall with a 1:43.479.
From the start Baptista gapped the field, and gradually extended his lead as the 50-minute race wore on.
After 10 minutes Baptista was one of two cars to record a time under 1:45.000. He later set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:44.151 giving him pole for the event finale. The result marked his first overall PWC Sprint GT victory, and his second PWC win of the season, after he won a SprintX race at VIR with Maxime Soulet earlier in the year.
Second in the race was Daniel Mancinelli, who started the race from second on the grid in the TR3 Racing Ferrari but couldn’t keep up with Baptista throughout the race and challenge for the win.
Parente, who started third on the grid, lost a few positions at the start of the race but battled back to the final podium spot. But in the closing minutes of the race, his Bentley suffered a left-front flat, forcing him to pit two laps early.
“It’s really unfortunate at the end there,” said K-PAX Racing programme 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.”
That meant that third place was inherited by Porsche factory man Michael Christensen in the #24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche.
Toni Vilander in the #61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, finished fourth, ahead of former GT SprintX champion Michael Cooper driving the #2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In the GTA category, Anthony Imperato was victorious in the #91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R over David Askew’s #63 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
“I consider Watkins Glen my home track and it feels great to get a class win here,” said Imperato.
“I only started racing here a few years ago. The Wright Motorsports team is so experienced and they gave me a good Porsche for today. This was only my second race in the Porsche 911 GT3 R as I came from the Porsche Cup series. But it is so much fun to drive the 911 GT3 R.
“I didn’t have any testing with this 911 GT3 R, but the car felt great throughout the race. I’m ready for the Sunday race now.”
Sunday’s GT Round 9 50-minute sprint event will begin at 1:15 p.m. EDT.