Race Weekend Central

Rodrigo Baptista, Ian James Claim Utah GTS Victories

On Saturday, Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Rodrigo Baptista earned his third win of 2017 in the first GTS race of the weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus.  The Brazilian rookie led the race flag-to-flag in his No. 3 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR.

Baptista was quite pleased with his driving.

“It was a really good race and the car was almost perfect,” Baptista said after the race.  “It would slide a little bit when I pushed hard, but the KTM and the Maserati behind me were really fast. I tried to push to the max, and we did it again. Thanks to everyone at Flying Lizard and Porsche for all their hard work. We had a great car out there today. We’ll try to do it again [Sunday].”

Baptista had been able to more or less cruise at the front until a full course caution flew with 17 minutes to go.  That bunched the field up and put Mantella Autosport’s Martin Barkey right on Baptista’s tail.  However, Baptista put his foot to the floor and got a great restart.  Barkey was immediately put on the defensive as Jeff Courtney took second at the first turn.

Courtney finished second and turned in the fastest lap of the race, earning the pole for Race No. 2.  Ian James was third in the Panoz Avezzano GT, followed by Barkey and Drew Staveley.

In GTSA, it was GMG Racing’s George Kurtz winning the class and finishing sixth overall.  For Kurtz, it was his sixth GTSA win of the season.

Ian Lacy Racing’s Frank Gannett snatched second in class coming to the white flag in his Ginetta from Mark Klenin.  Tony Gaples was third, followed by Adam Merzon and Carter Yeung.

Results of Pirelli World Challenge at Utah GTS-class Race No. 1

Race No. 2

In Sunday’s Race No. 2, a topsy-turvy race saw Team Panoz Racing earn their fourth win of the year with James at the helm from third on the grid.  However, this was a rather strange race.

The unusual instances started hours before the race when Barkey’s team was forced to make an engine change on the No. 80 KTM X-Bow GT4.  As a result, Barkey was forced to start at the rear of the field.  He would eventually finish 11th after spinning out later in the race.

On the start, Courtney got a terrible start from pole (despite no one next to him) and lost the lead to James.  Before the first lap was over, the yellow was out due to a spin and stall for Racers Edge Motorsports’ Jason Bell in the Black Rock Hairpin.

The real surprise came on the restart when Kurtz, the GTSA points leader, blasted to the overall lead on the restart and led a number of laps in his McLaren.  While James was able to get him back for the overall lead with 32 minutes to go, Sunday was a big day for the Crowdstrike President/CEO.

Once back out front, James pulled away from the pack as Kurtz fought with about half the field.  Staveley was eventually able to get by for second and set out to run down James.

However, before he could, a full course yellow flew when Baptista and Courtney collided in the Clubhouse Corner.  Both drivers spun, but Baptista ended up getting stuck in a sand trap.  Baptista would get pulled out, but lost two laps in the process.  He would eventually pull out of the race and be credited with a 14th-place finish.

The green came back out with 6.5 minutes to go and Staveley immediately put his local knowledge to work.  He pressured James heavily for the lead over the final four laps, but he could not prevent the veteran racer from taking his fourth win of the season.

Behind James and Staveley, Nate Stacy was able to squeak past Kurtz at the line by just under a tenth of a second to take third overall.  For Kurtz, he still walked out of Utah Motorsports Campus with a weekend sweep of the GTSA-subclass and seven wins on the season.  Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach was fifth.

In GTSA, Gannett took his second straight second-place finish behind Kurtz.  Merzon came from the rear of the field to finish a strong third, followed by Chris Beaufait and Yeung.

Results of Pirelli World Challenge at Utah GTS-class Race No. 2

GTS-class competitors will now take a couple of weeks off before returning at Circuit of the Americas on Labor Day weekend.  There, teams will contest Rounds 15 and 16.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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