Sunday afternoon under sunny skies in front of a large crowd of Road America auto racing fans, Flying Lizard Motorsports earned its fourth podium finish of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge season.
Nate Stacy, driver of the No.14 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR put forth a strong performance from an eleventh place starting position to finish third in the Pro GTS class, earning the race two Hard Charger Award.
Teammate Rodrigo Baptisa, driver of the No.3 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, started the weekend sitting third in points, and ran strong to narrowly miss clinching the race one pole position and an additional podium.
Baptista showed a strong performance in the Saturday qualifying session, but in the final laps was shuffled to seventh position, with Stacy setting a time to start 14th. The field took the green flag for race one on Saturday under clear conditions, and produced a relatively clean start. Baptista gained a position on the start, and was then forced off track to avoid a crash in the opening laps. He recovered expertly, rejoining the race with no damage to run in fifth.
Stacy jumped from 14th to fight for a top ten position within the first few minutes, putting heavy pressure on the Ginetta of Parker Chase. After a race down the back straight, Stacy took the position and charged ahead to catch the next car up the field.
With 35 minutes remaining on the race clock, Baptista picked off another car to race fourth, needing to make up 2.4 seconds to catch the third place car. As Baptista worked to close the gap, attrition behind Stacy allowed him to create a comfortable gap, focusing on continuing his climb up the charts. In the final five minutes of the race, Baptista fought hard to defend fourth place, but AustinVersteeg took the position in the final laps.
Stacy produced a ninth place finish after an impressive charge through the field, but was later pushed back to 13th place in the final results due to passing under a local yellow flag.
With starting positions for race two determined by the fastest lap from race one, Baptista and Stacy lined up Sunday afternoon to start second and eleventh, respectively. Both drivers showed astounding standing starts, launching their Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs off the starting line with impressive speed. Baptista took the lead from the pole sitter and created a comfortable gap over the field in the opening turns. Stacy maneuvered from 11th to seventh in the first lap, which went immediately yellow with several cars involved in an incident on the front straight.
Baptista led the field to green, but the Panoz of Ian James quickly assumed the lead, creating a 2.1 second gap over Lawson Aschenbach and Baptista in one lap. Baptista held third position despite heavy pressure from Jeff Courtney in the Maserati, but ten minutes into the heated battle, Courtney took the position, followed by Versteeg. Almost immediately after, Courtney went off course, bringing out the second full course caution. With 13 minutes remaining, the field restarted, and Baptista reclaimed third position from Versteeg, while Stacy overtook fifth position.
With seven minutes left in the race, an incident produced a minefield of debris, resulting in the series officials bringing out the red flag to pause the race, then the checker flag to end the race early. Baptista crossed the finish line in third, but was given a 58 second time penalty after a discrepancy at the restart, moving him back from third to 28th. Stacy assumed third place in Pro class, earning his second podium of the 2017 race season.
The Pirelli World Challenge will resume the battle for the championship in one month's time, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The series will race in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series July 28-30th. For more information, visit www.world-challenge.com.
*From team media release
Photograph by John Sukowaty, a contributor to Sports Car Illustrated. To contact John or view more of his work visit his website at www.racedayphotog.com
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