Rodrigo Baptista doubles up at El Pinar to grab points lead
Rodrigo Baptista took full advantage of issues for Pepe Oriola to secure a second win of the weekend at the Autódromo Víctor Borrat Fabini circuit in Uruguay, taking the lead of the TCR South America standings in the process.
The reverse grid saw Pablo Otero on pole in his Lynk & Co, with race one winner Baptista back in what would become ninth spot in his Audi as a field of ten cars once again took the start; both Juan Manuel Casella and Ayrton Chorne unable to join in having missed race one with separate technical issues.
The race – run over an extended period of 21 laps – kicked off with Otero retaining the lead from team-mate Cyro Fontes, who made the best start to go between Adalberto Baptista and Gonzalo Reilly into second spot on the run to turn one.
Points leader Pepe Oriola also got away well and having cleared both Baptista and Reilly, he swept past Fontes into second spot just before Reilly and Baptista clashed and dropped down to the back of the field.
Otero led by just over a second after the opening lap but Oriola soon closed onto the rear of the polesitter, the Spaniard aware that Rodrigo Baptista had worked his way up to fifth but was now behind the Honda of José Manuel Sapag; which had been one of the quicker cars over the course of race one.
Oriola hit the front on the third lap at the hairpin as Baptista cleared Sapag to grab fourth with an identical move behind and the following lao, both Baptista and Sapag battled ahead of Fontes into third and fourth before setting off after Otero.
The Audi was soon fixed onto the rear of the Lynk & Co and going into the hairpin on lap five, Baptista swept ahead into second spot.
Just seconds later however, the Audi was in front when Oriola’s front right suspension appeared to suddenly give way and forced him to dive into the pits to retire – handing his title rival the advantage.
As Baptista cruised away at the front, the fight for second would rage between five cars, with Otero ahead of Sapag, Rodrigo Pflucker, Raphael Reis and Fontes – with the Alfa Romeo of Diego Martinez having dropped away from the remainder of the pack and Reilly running at the back after his lap one dramas.
Pflucker got ahead of Sapag on lap nine and set about going after Otero but the safety car was then deployed when Fontes and Reis tangled, which resulted in Fontes almost going over the barriers in the Lynk & Co before his car came to rest on the edge of the circuit.
With the car removed, the action got back underway on lap 13 and Pflucker wasted little time in making a move on Otero for second spot, only for the Lynk & Co driver to immediately fight back to reclaim the spot as Baptista pulled away.
Brief contact between the pair allowed Sapag to close in and make it a three-way fight for second spot with Martinez now up to fifth thanks to the problems for those ahead and Reis back in sixth having been forced to pit to allow damage to his car to be checked over. Adalberto Baptista had also rejoined after a lengthy stop but was five laps down on the field.
Otero managed put some breathing space between himself and Pflucker as the Hyundai racer was forced to defend to keep Sapag at bay, with Sapag getting ahead when Pflucker outbraked himself and ran wide to drop back down to fourth.
Sapag quickly closed onto the rear of Otero to start pushing for second spot, with Pflucker dropping away from the pair as he was unable to keep Reilly’s lapped Honda behind and had to settle for fourth.
Out front however, Baptista was in a class of his own as he made it two wins for the weekend with Otero holding on to second spot from Sapag.
Pflucker would take fourth in the Hyundai ahead of Reis, with Martinez the final driver on the lead lap in sixth spot. Reilly and Adalberto Baptista were the final two drivers still running at the finish.
Baptista now leads Oriola by eight points in the standings, with Reis in third a further 39 behind.