Fuentes & Baptista Conquer Sonoma Raceway

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Martin Fuentes and Rodrigo Baptista drove the Squadra Corse Ferrari to victory Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.
Martin Fuentes and Rodrigo Baptista drove the Squadra Corse Ferrari to victory Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

SONOMA, Calif. – Squadra Corse Ferrari drivers Martin Fuentes and Rodrigo Baptista won Saturday afternoon’s GT World Challenge America powered by AWS race at Sonoma Raceway.

The GMG Racing Porsche team of James Sofronas and Jeroen Bleekemolen finished second. Am division team Fred Poordad and Max Root, running the Wright Motorsports Porsche, finished first in class and third overall in the race.

The 90-minute contest was held under sunny, 76-degree Fahrenheit weather conditions. Pole sitter and Silver division competitor Shelby Blackstock brought the field to green and launched successfully into the lead ahead of Pro/Am driver Sofronas, who started second, and fellow Pro/Am driver Fuentes, who started third. Poordad, slotted in fourth behind them.

Blackstock hit his marks in the early stages of the race and pulled away, growing his lead to more than 15 seconds over Sofronas, while Fuentes maintained striking distance. Behind Poordad, who held fourth, a battle for fifth raged as Pro/Am driver George Kurtz defended challenges from Ziad Ghandour.

On lap 20 Sofronas ran wide through turn seven, allowing Fuentes to move into second overall and first in Pro/Am.

Drama then ensued shortly before the official pit window opening, as Blackstock came into the pits and changed over to Hindman. The stop outside of the official pit window opening meant the team would need to serve a penalty.

With the No. 93 car in the pits, Fuentes moved into the lead over Sofronas and Poordad. At the 45-minute mark of the race, the official pit window opened, and Fuentes came in first to change over to Baptista. Sofronas entered second to change over to Bleekemolen. Poordad came in third to change over to Root. At the end of the pit window, the charts showed Hindman in the lead, but officials then ordered the Racer’s Edge Acura down pit road to serve an 87-second penalty for the early pit stop infraction.

Baptista moved into the overall lead, with Bleekemolen second and Root third. Baptista then went to work, building up a 14-second lead, but with just more than 15 minutes remaining officials issued a full-course yellow to clean up debris through turn nine.

Baptista’s lead evaporated and the field bunched up for the restart of the race. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest, Baptista led the field back to green and launched successfully into the lead. Action behind him was heated as Bleekemolen successfully thwarted Root’s challenge through turn two.

Root then in turn had to fend of challenges from Colin Braun, who had taken over the reins of the No. 04 machine from Kurtz. With battles raging behind him Baptista built his lead to 3.2 seconds and at the checkered, crossed the line 2.074 seconds ahead of Bleekemolen.

“We had a big gap before the safety car came out,” said Baptista. “I was hoping the guys behind me would start battling on the restart and that’s what happened. “Rodrigo did a great job, we were stressed out when the yellow came out,” said Fuentes. “We are happy, we are back in the lead in the championship.”

“We are trying to shoot for overall podiums,” said Root. “The Wright Motorsports car was fantastic today. We had an opportunity today and we took it to finish on the podium.”

In other action, Jason Daskolos and the No. 27 Daskalos Motorsports Audi R8 LMS Ultra took a dominant GT Sports Club victory.