From the second the red light went out during Race No. 2 at Lime Rock Park for Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class, Flying Lizard Motorsport’s Rodrigo Baptista had the best car. Starting in third, he blasted away the field on the start.
— Flying Lizard Motorsports (@FlyingLizard_MS) May 27, 2017
Baptista was able to use that speed and some excellent luck to pick up his second win of the weekend on Saturday. It keeps up an incredible streak for the team. They’ve never started a race at Lime Rock in which they failed to put a car on the podium.
Prior to this weekend, the 20-year old Brazilian Baptista had never seen Lime Rock Park before outside of a simulator. It seems like he enjoyed it a bunch.
“I like this small track,” Baptista said after the race. “You need to be in the right place (to get the best line) on the track, like in the banked areas. I’ve done (this track) on the simulator but it’s not quite the same. The downhill on here (at the track) is big, not like (the simulator). Everything here is new for me, so I never expected to come here and win. But it’s really nice, and the championship is very competitive.”
The race was far from easy for Baptista. While the rest of the field was stuck behind Mark Klenin‘s McLaren 570S GT4, Baptista opened up a nine second on the field. Then, problems struck in turn 3.
“I had a problem with…I think the ABS,” Baptista explained. “I touched the brake and it did not brake the car. I went straight [at turn 3]. Then, I came back [to the track] and the Panoz passed me.”
Given the rain that has fallen in Northwest Connecticut over the past few days (including Friday), the Flying Lizard Motorsports squad was obviously worried that Baptista was going to end up in the wall due to the wet grass. However, Baptista was able to recover without a scratch.
As Baptista noted, the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT of Ian James took the lead as a result of Baptista’s off-course excursion. The Avezzano (which won the award for loudest car at the track) was plenty fast in its own right. James set the race’s fastest lap while trying to chase Baptista down prior to the off-course excursion.
Baptista was able to close the gap between himself and the Avezzano, but James’ luck ran out before he could get there. With 23 minutes to go, smoke started coming out of the exhaust pipes of the No. 50. The V8 engine in the Avezzano chose that point of the race to give up the ghost.
James’ engine failure left Baptista with a 20-second lead over the rest of the field. With that kind of advantage, Baptista was in position to back off his pace and cruise to victory.
However, the No. 019 BMW M3 E92 of Ari Balogh stalled in turn 4 to bring out a full course yellow. In the last 10 minutes of the race, the Brazilian rookie drove away from the field to take the win.
Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach ended up second, 9.78 seconds back. That finish allowed him to once again expand his points lead over his nearest rivals. VOLT Racing’s Chris Hall, driving a borrowed Ford Mustang GT4 from KohR Motorsports, finished third. Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Nate Stacy was immediately behind Hall in fourth, while pole sitter Martin Barkey was fifth.
In GTSA, Hall’s third-place finish was good enough to give him the subclass victory. The margin of victory was 8.1 seconds over teammate Alan Brynjolfsson in his McLaren 570S GT4. Klenin, who ran as high as second overall at one point, ended up third in GTSA and eighth overall.
The GTS teams take the next three weeks off before returning to action at Road America in support to the Verizon IndyCar Series. GTS Class Round No. 9 is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT on Jun. 24.