K-PAX Racing Stands on Podium in Season Opener - St. Petersburg, FlaMar. 10 2018
Baptista pushes Bentley Continental GT3 to second-place finish
K-PAX Racing experienced a day of many firsts Saturday during the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season-opener at St. Petersburg (Fla.). Mainly, the day marked the team’s first true test of competing alongside the series’ strong GT lineup in its Bentley Continental GT3 cars. The team also captured its first podium of the 2018 season, adding to its 108 total visits since 2007.
Rodrigo Baptista, driver of the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3, made his debut in the series’ GTA class, where he asserted himself as a strong competitor in the class. Baptista, who had a successful season in the series’ GTS class last year – with four wins and six podium performances – carried a similar momentum into the GT3 racing ranks.
In qualifying, Baptista was at the top of his class. He recorded a 1:12.545 in his second-to-last lap of the session, topping the charts for GTA drivers. The 21-year-old Brazilian was nearly on the pace with the GT class, which is a goal of his for this season.
“I just want to be on top… I always want to be,” Baptista said. “I was able to be at the top in GTA in qualifying, but I’d like to run as close as I can to the GT guys. I want to keep improving. But, this may not be the track where we compare ourselves to the other guys. The cars are fast but these street courses are challenging.”
Baptista maintained a quick pace in the opening round of PWC Sprint GT / GTA competition, where he started eighth overall. At the heels of the GT field, Baptista made his marks on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile course – with the exception of a slight miscue in the tenth turn of the fourth lap. Nevertheless, Baptista showed his resiliency by driving his No. 3 car to a second-place finish in GTA.
“Rodrigo had a phenomenal run,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “He had a little mistake early-on that lost him some track position, but as we saw last year he’s a very solid driver who makes very few mistakes. He put his head down and worked his way up into P2 in the class. He was turning very fast lap times so we’re really happy with his performance, and we’re looking forward to his performance tomorrow.”
Law, who coached Baptista last season in GTS, said Baptista possesses the skills to compete among the series’ top-drivers. Baptista’s quickest lap in the 50-minute race was a 1:12.840, which was less than one second from the GT pace.
“He impressed us last season,” Law said. “He showed his race-craft, his ability, his cool head as well as his speed. That’s why we wanted him to move up into this program with the Bentleys. We knew he had the talent and ability, and it may be a surprise to some jumping into this GT3 car and being close to Álvaro [Parente] in lap times, but I’m not surprised. I continue to be impressed by his abilities.”
Parente, who started sixth overall on the starting grid, was involved in an incident in the first corners of the opening lap. The No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 suffered extensive damage which forced the team to retire the car from the race.
“It’s always tough starting the season with a street course,” Law said. “It’s unfortunate with what happened to Alvaro’s car in the first race, but the guys will get it back together. The goal tomorrow is to have a good run and get some points.”
The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg finale is scheduled for a 3:15 p.m. (ET) start. For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
Álvaro Parente - No. 9 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – NC) - “What a terrible way to start this season. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it through the first corners. I feel like we had a pretty good start. There just has to be a little bit more driver awareness with some of the drivers, and that’s it. We’re going to fight for tomorrow. The boys are trying their best to fix the car, and let’s see if we can do some work tomorrow."
Rodrigo Baptista (GTA Class) – No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 (Race 1 – 2nd) - “Getting this podium for K-PAX Racing felt pretty good. We had a good pace and managed to keep the car on the same pace the entire race. I just made a small mistake but other than that, it was a good race. Tomorrow, we’re going to keep pushing with the same approach we had today. With the same pace we had today, there is a possibility we can finish at the top of our class in GTA. We’re going to do the same and try to finish on-top tomorrow in our class.”
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 108 podiums, 43 wins, four Driver Championships and three Manufacturer Championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In the GT Class K-PAX has fielded Porsche 911 GT3s during the 2007 – 2008 seasons, Volvo S60s during the 2009 – 2013 seasons, McLaren 12C GT3s in 2014 and McLaren 650S GT3s from 2015 – 2017.
About Bentley Motorsport
Bentley Motorsport is based at the Bentley Motors headquarters in Crewe. From there, the operation runs Bentley Team M-Sport, and oversees customer racing operations around the world.
The Continental GT3 is built by the Bentley motorsport team in conjunction with M-Sport. The Bentley Motorsport team is led by Bentley Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush supported by M-Sport’s Chief Engineer, Christian Loriaux.
Bentley Motors’ headquarters in Crewe is home to all of its operations including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s four model lines, Continental, Bentayga, Flying Spur and Mulsanne. The combination of fine craftsmanship, using skills that have been handed down through generations, alongside engineering expertise and cutting-edge technology is unique to UK luxury car brands.
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