Young sports car racer Rodrigo Baptista has been spectacular in his continued rise during the first half of the Pirelli World Challenge series at the wheel of his No. 3 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 machine.
The 21-year-old driver from Brazil joined the PWC campaign last year in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR car in the GTS division and quickly recorded four race wins and placed fourth in the 2017 final GTS standings.
The former Brazilian Porsche GT3 Cup series champion moved to the GT3 ranks this year with the famed K-PAX Racing squad and has shown sensational speed in both the GT Sprint and GT SprintX events. As an Amateur racer, Baptista has been battling many of the world’s top GT sports car racers wheel-to-wheel with impressive results.
Already in 2018, Rodrigo has collected five wins in the GT SprintX Pro-Am and GT Sprint GTA divisions as well as a GT Overall victory at VIRginia International Raceway in April with his K-PAX Racing partner Maxime Soulet. Baptista also recorded the GT Overall fastest lap of the race.
In fact, Baptista is fifth in the GT Overall standings entering the next Pirelli World Challenge events — a GT doubleheader at Road America on June 22-24.
“We knew Rodrigo had impressive talent after seeing him in the GTS class last year,” said Darren Law, K-PAX Racing program manager. “Working with top pro drivers like Alvaro Parente, Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek this year in the new K-PAX Racing Bentley program has helped Rodrigo with his race craft too. His early races were strong, but he was outstanding at VIR with the GT SprintX Overall win.”
In that VIR round, Baptista came from the third starting position to move to the GT SprintX Overall lead against international GT stars.
“VIR is one of my most favorite tracks in the U.S.,” said Baptista (pictured above). “At the start of the race, I just tried to stay out of trouble and stay clean. On the second lap, I tried to push because I knew we had a pretty good car, and Daniel Morad (in the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) was sliding around a lot. So, I knew I could pass him and waited. I tried again and gained the position. It was a great win for K-PAX Racing and Bentley.”
With his early season success, Baptista has been moved to the Pro class now entering the Road America rounds. And he expects another strong performance from the Bentley machine in the two 50-minute sprint races.
“The Bentley has been a good car at Road America in the past,” said Baptista. “The car likes the long straightaways and sweeping corners. I really enjoyed the track last year when I drove in the GT4 car in the GTS class. It’s a legendary circuit that most drivers really enjoy. I’m anxious to get back to Road America next week.”
The Bentley Continental GT3 has recorded several PWC GT Sprint wins in the past at the Elkhart Lake, Wis., road course including with Chris Dyson in 2015 and Adderly Fong in 2017.
Joining Baptista at Road America in the K-PAX Racing line-up is 2016 GT Overall champion Parente, who has one GT Sprint win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month. Parente will drive the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 at Road America.
While the Bentleys of Baptista and Parente might be listed as favorites at Road America, other GT contenders will include GT Overall point leader Toni Vilander in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, GT Sprint point leader Scott Hargrove in the No. 96 Pfaff Motorsports/Castrol Porsche 911 GT3 R, Lime Rock GT SprintX winner Michael Christensen in the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and CTMP GT Sprint winner Daniel Morad in the No. 2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In addition to the GT action at Road America, the popular GTS (GT4 sports cars) division is set for two 50-minute sprint races as part of the Kohler Grand Prix with the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Practice gets underway at Road America on Friday (June 22) with GT and GTS events scheduled for Saturday (June 23) and Sunday (June 24).