K-PAX Racing’s Rodrigo Baptista had an excellent day on Saturday (Sep. 1) at Watkins Glen International. First, he won his first GT overall pole position in the morning. In the afternoon, he led all 29 laps with ease to claim his very first Pirelli World Challenge solo victory.
“[Today’s win] is very special to me,” Baptista said after the race. “I started the year as an amateur, and I just wasn’t there [on pace]. Now, I’m here.”
Baptista was more than a half-second faster than TR3 Racing’s Daniel Mancinelli in qualifying. Once the green came out, Baptista ran off and hid from the rest of the field. Within 20 minutes, he had a seven-second lead. Further back, teammate Àlvaro Parente slipped back to fifth on the start and tried to claw his way back towards the front.
The story of the day behind Baptista appeared to be tires. Tire wear itself was not that bad. However, a number of teams dealt with cut tires. Mario Farnbacher, racing an Acura NSX GT3 as a joint effort between RealTime Racing and Honda of America Racing Team (HART), cut a left rear tire late in the race and was forced to stop.
A couple of laps later, PFAFF Motorsports’ Scott Hargrove cut a tire on his Porsche 911 GT3 R. Hargrove ultimately finished sixth after an unscheduled stop. Finally, Parente had a left front tire go down while driving through the Inner Loop. With the flat, Parente’s Bentley attempted to understeer into the wall. Parente was able to keep the car out of the wall, but was unable to finish.
Baptista’s margin of victory was 11.983 seconds over Mancinelli. Alegra Motorsports’ Michael Christensen was third in his Porsche, followed by R. Ferri Motorsport’s Toni Vilander. CRP Racing’s Michael Cooper took advantage of the misfortune of others to finish fifth.
In the GTA class, the story wasn’t so much about who was in the race but who wasn’t. TruSpeed AutoSport announced last week that they weren’t going to make the trip due to a death in driver Parker Chase‘s family. Dream Racing Motorsport’s Yuki Harata never made it to Watkins Glen. Those two withdrawals clinched the championship for Squadra Corse Garage Italia’s Martin Fuentes. With Chase and Harata not present, Fuentes chose to withdraw as well, preferring to savor his title.
As a result, GTA was a two-car race. Wright Motorsports’ Anthony Imperato had two seconds in qualifying over DXDT Racing’s David Askew and dominated the race en route to the win. The margin of victory was considered to be a lap because Askew was lapped by Baptista while Imperato was not.
In addition to his dominant run, Baptista turned in the fastest lap of the race. As a result, he will start from the pole in the final GT/GTA race of 2018. That race is scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. EDT Sunday afternoon. It will be streamed live at World-Challenge.com.