Rodrigo Baptista, driving the #3 K-Pax Racing Bentley Continental GT3 he shared with Maxime Soulet, took the second win of the weekend for the Sonoma, California-based team when he won the Race Two of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge America double-header at VIRginia International Raceway. The young Brazilian driver crossed the line 10.104 seconds ahead of the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 driven by Patrick Long.
Taking the final overall podium position was the #24 Alegra Motorsports Porsche driven by Marco Holzer and, taking the chequered flag, Wolf Henzler.
The win in the Pro-Am category went to the #43 RealTime racing Acura NSX driven by Dane Cameron and Bret Curtis which finished just over 19 seconds ahead of the #04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, piloted by Colin Bran and George Kurtz.
Andy Soucek, at the wheel of the #9 K-Pax Racing Bentley Continental GT3, led the field from pole position but Scott Hargrove, driving the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R took the lead on the opening lap with Tony Vilander, driving the #61b R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari F488 GT3 and who started second, falling to fourth.
Hargrove’s Porsche had sustained serious damage in the closing seconds of Race One and the team revealed that it took a major logistical exercise to obtain the parts necessary to get the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche on the grid for Sunday’s 90-minute race.
After 13 laps and nearly 25 minutes of racing, Hargrove held a 2.314 second lead ahead of Andy Soucek with Dane Cameron, driving the #43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX he shares with Bret Curtis, holding third position overall and leading the Pro-Am category.
There was drama, however, for Andy Soucek when he had an off-track excursion at the final turn after 17 laps due to a problem with the left rear tyre. No damage was sustained to the #9 Bentley but Soucek dropped down the field and rejoined in 16th overall. The team revealed that it identified that there was a problem but could not get Soucek into the pits before the issue had caused a problem on the circuit. To add to the issue, the Race Director announced that the pit stop for the #9 car was to be reviewed. No further action, however, was taken.
As the pit window opened Hargrove immediately pitted, allowing Dane Cameron to take the lead with Toni Vilander in the #61 Ferrari moving in to second.
Soucek pitted the #9 Bentley but had further challenges when a fire broke out at the driver change. No injuries were sustained.
After the driver changes had cycled through, it was the #3 Bentley, now with Rodrigo Baptista at the wheel, who held the overall lead with Miguel Molina, piloting the #61 Ferrari, in second, less than two seconds behind.
Bret Curtis held the Pro-Am lead in the #43 RealTime Racing Acura and Ceaser Bacarella led the Am category in the #7 Squadra Corsa Ferrari.
Running in second, Miguel Molina was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop in the #61 Ferrari after 37 laps for a tyre issue. The Spanish driver re-joined in sixth position.
As the race moved into the final 10 minutes, Anthony Imperato, at the wheel of the #91 Wright Motorsports Porsche and running in the final podium position in the Pro-Am category, spun onto the grass. The Henry Repeating Rifle CEO recovered back on the circuit held on to his class position.
With seven minutes remaining, Baptista started to pull the gap out to second-placed Patrick Long in the #58 Wright Motorsports entry and was nearly five second ahead after 46 laps.
As the 90-minute race entered its final minutes, the main on-track battle was between Daniel Morad in the #22 Porsche who had Miguel Molina in the #61 Ferrari putting him pressure for fourth place, Molina passing Morad in the closing seconds.
At the chequered flag, it was Baptista who held on to take the overall victory with Patrick Long settling for second and a solid points haul after the disappointment of the previous race.
Baptista was delighted at the victory, especially after a disappointing Race One.
“It’s really good,” said the Brazilian driver. “The team did a great job yesterday after the crash. I want to thank the team for the great pit-stop and I just brought the car home. I just did my job.”
Pro-Am winner Bret Curtis was quick to pay tribute to his teammate Dane Cameron after the #43 RealTime Racing took the Pro-Am victory.
“Dane is such a good driver. He gave us such a good lead – he’s so consistent – I just knew basically ‘Don’t mess this up,” said the American amateur driver. “I was trying to let the Pro cars through easily because there was no point in battling with those guys but I did it at places where it wouldn’t slow me down as much. It hurt my lap time but it was more important to keep the gap and let them race their race. I’m really happy. The car was great and Dane and the team did a really great job.”
Full race report with Championship standings to follow.
The 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge America grid next assembles at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on May 17 – 19.