Baptista Promoted to Series’ Elite Class - SONOMA, Calif.Jun. 20 2018
Will compete in Pirelli World Challenge Sprint GT Pro class for remainder of 2018 season
For the remainder of the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season, Rodrigo Baptista and the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 will compete in the series’ highest ranks. Baptista, who made his GT3 racing debut with the team at the start of the season, will be promoted to the series’ pro classes which includes both Sprint GT and SprintX Pro-Pro.
“Rodrigo has been a great addition to the K-PAX Racing team this season,” K-PAX Racing Team Owner Jim Haughey said. “I wasn’t sure how he was going to perform in GT3. We knew he was good but moving up to a higher class is different – sometimes it works well and other times it does not. He continues to show his skill and racecraft race after race, and we’re very happy to have him in one of our Bentley Continental GT3s. We look forward to seeing him compete alongside some of the series’ best drivers for the remainder of the 2018 season.”
The 21-year-old from São Paulo, Brazil is more than halfway through his inaugural season in the seat of a GT3-spec sports car. In the series’ first six events (11 races), Baptista quickly emerged as a virtuous talent by recording five wins, eight podiums and four poles. He was also the first amateur co-driver to win an overall race in SprintX history. Points earned during these events will be adjusted to reflect the No. 3’s Pro status.
“Even though we’re not going to have a chance to run for the GTA Championship, which is unfortunate, I think this move proves Rodrigo’s ability in GT3 racing,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said. “This is important for K-PAX Racing. We want our pro drivers – like Álvaro [Parente] over the last couple seasons – to contend for championships. We’re not going to just put anyone in our cars. Rodrigo has proven that he is able to contend for overall wins.”
“He had the speed, and what impressed me was his racecraft – his ability to learn a track, race hard with the series veterans, not crack under pressure, and he was very mature in how he conducted himself. He has good judgement when it comes to racing – between passing and being able to hold his position against veterans and former champions. We felt he was at the level that could compete in GT3. Those were really the main factors that helped us make the decision to move him up into GT3 – running a bigger car against full-factory drivers. We knew he’d be good, but we didn’t know how good.”
In 2017, Baptista quickly emerged as a talent in the series’ GTS class (GT4-spec racing). Law said he was a quick study in his first year of American racing – having no experience at any of the tracks on the schedule. Baptista captured four wins and six podiums in a career-defining season. Law, who also helped coach Baptista during this time, said Baptista “really showed the potential he had.”
“Overall, when I was first contacted by Rodrigo and his management team, XYZ Talents, we had discussed his previous experience, and we had gone over a general plan as far as gaining him experience in the U.S. and helping him in his sports car career,” Law said. “I recommended that he join a developmental program in GTS in 2017 to learn the tracks, learn the system and learn American racing. That’s exactly what happened, and we felt very encouraged by his performance in his first year racing in the U.S. He had never been to any of the tracks and worked hard to learn them on the simulators. Time and time again, he shows us the true potential he has.”
Baptista’s goal at each stop on the series schedule this season was to carry a pro-level pace. He has not only earned a podium in five of the series’ last six events, but he has also regularly been in the position to compete with the pro drivers in the field. Baptista said he looks forward to the challenge of “showing that organizers that he is able to race with the pros” in the No. 3 Bentley Continental GT3 – a car that matched his driving style from the start.
“As soon as I tested the Bentley Continental GT3, I felt I was ready to race with the GT3 classes, and incredibly the car matched my driving style,” Baptista said. “I am really happy. Since the beginning of the year I was confident about my performance with the GT3 car, and fortunately everything happened as fast as I expected. There are a lot of great drivers in the PWC field, and I am glad to be in this circle.”
“I am super happy with the season so far. Our staff is super professional, and the cars are always ready. If I need to tell you about one single problem with the car, I can’t remember right now. I need to thank Jim Haughey and the entire K-PAX Racing team for putting together this super program and supporting this sport we all love.”
Baptista and the No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 will debut in the Sprint GT Pro class June 22-24 during the Grand Prix of Road America (Wisc). For more information, visit world-challenge.com.
About K-PAX Racing
Based in Sonoma, Calif., K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 119 podiums, 49 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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