Kiwi Baird signs with Ford

The final remaining works seat in the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship has been filled: Ford today (Weds) announced that New Zealander Craig Baird will race a BTCC Mondeo alongside former British Champion Will Hoy.

The move ends recent speculation that former World Champion Nigel Mansell was involved in negotiations for the drive. Mansell's last UK appearance was in a BTCC Ford, when he contested a race at Donington Park in 1993.

Baird, 27, is the reigning New Zealand touring car champion, having won the title every year since 1993. He also holds Kiwi Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic titles and was the 1996 Bathurst 1000 2-litre victor.

Dick Bennetts, Team Mondeo principal, said: "Craig will be a tremendous asset to the team. The BTCC is the most competitive Super Touring championship in the world, but his results in Australia and New Zealand are very impressive and I'm sure he'll be quick to adapt those skills here."

Baird replaces another Kiwi, Paul Radisich, who has switched from Ford to Peugeot for the '98 season. Other newcomers to the Auto Trader BTCC this season include ex-F1 star Gianni Morbidelli, who will partner Rickard Rydell at Volvo.

The championship blasts into action at Thruxton on Easter Monday, April 13.

-- Official BTCC website www.btcc.co.uk