Rodrigo Baptista and Tom Coronel win dramatic Curitiba endurance race

Rodrigo Baptista and Tom Coronel came through from the back of the grid to win the TCR South America endurance race at Curitiba in Brazil, as many drivers suffered from front-left punctures.

At the rolling start, Squadra Martino’s Esteban Guerrieri and CJ Motorsport’s Sérgio Jimenez went side-by-side into the first turn, resulting in the latter’s Hyundai Elantra cutting the chicane and assuming the lead.

The two leaders pulled away from the chasing pack, with Valdeno Brito’s Honda in third, but because Jimenez didn’t cede the position to Guerrieri, he was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards and after lap five dropped out of the lead.

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The opening lap for Rodrigo Baptista saw the Cobra Racing Audi driver also go off at the first turn, but the Brazilian put in a strong sequence of turns thereafter to end the first tour in sixth, from tenth on the grid.

He then passed Fabio Casagrande’s Alfa Romeo for fifth at the start of lap two, before picking off Pedro Aizza’s Honda for fourth at the same place two laps later.

Guerrieri found himself in the lead but the Honda driver was the first to pick up a puncture on lap 12, with the front-left tyre then proving to be problematic at coming off in the pit stop, costing him significant time.

In the end, Guerrieri, sharing the car with José Manuel Sapag, would retire after 21 laps due to a broken driveshaft.

Just two laps later the Hyundai Elantra being shared by Givanni Girotto and Thiago Maruqes suffered a big front-right puncture, which ultimately shredded the tyre and the front bodywork, before breaking the suspension and putting the duo out of the race, trigger a safety car period due to significant debris on track.

The safety car had been set to come in at the end of lap 17, but this was effectively extended after less than half a lap of racing when Roy Block’s Alfa Romeo stopped on circuit with a mechanical issue behind the safety car.

With Guerrieri’s demise, Brito found himself leading at the restart the race ahead of Baptista, with Jimenez now in third despite his earlier penalty.

One lap later Jimenez handed his Hyundai over to Beto Monteiro, whilst leaders Brito and Baptista pitted to hand over to Raphael Reis and Tom Coronel respectively, re-joining in the leading positions.

Two laps from the end of the race Reis made a mistake and locked up, allowing Coronel into the lead, with the mistake also costing him his front-left tyre, requiring him to pit for a late replacement.

That handed second to Monteiro, with the Alfa Romeo of Fabio Casagrande and James Vance completing the podium, whilst Reis was just fourth and the last driver on the leading lap.

There were also punctures for the Hondas of Pedro Aizza / Ayrton Chorne in fifth, Marcelo Costa / Pepe Oriola in sixth and the Audi of Adalberto Baptista / Alan Hellmeister in seventh.

The result means that Oriola maintains a slender championship lead, the Spaniard having 75 points, followed by Baptista on 68 and Reis on 54.

The next round takes place at Brazil’s Velopark on 28 – 29 August with two sprint races.

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