Dominant Baird Regains Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Lead Queensland-based Kiwi Craig Baird is back at the top of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series point standings after another dominant performance at Christchurch's...
Dominant Baird Regains Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Lead
Queensland-based Kiwi Craig Baird is back at the top of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series point standings after another dominant performance at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park on Sunday.
There was simply no stopping the experienced Baird in the two Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup races, the 34-year-old former New Zealand Grand Prix and 2 Litre Touring Car champion winning the morning one from Hong-Kong-based Canadian Darryl O'Young and the 16 lap final late in afternoon from comeback kid Matt Halliday.
In stark contrast series rival Halliday had a weekend to forget.
After grinding to a halt late in Saturday's 30 minute enduro the 25-year-old Auckland international had to start the second race from the back of the grid, then any chances he might have had of making up ground on pole sitter Baird were dashing (in that race anyway) when he was adjudged to have made a pass under a yellow flag and called into the pits to serve a drive through penalty.
That meant he had to give up the hard-won places he had made up early in the race, eventually crossing the line an exasperated 10th.
The only bright spot in an otherwise frustrating weekend for the New Zealand team captain came in the final 16 lap race however when he put in one of the drives of the meeting to make it from tenth place on the grid to second at the flag, less than a car length behind Baird.
Going into the lap Baird had what looked like a comfortable lead on his rival yet on the run to the flag the advantage seemed to evaporate.
"I missed a gear," admitted Baird. "Coming up the straight to the start finish line, looking at the chequered flag and not really concentrating, I missed a gear. Matty said he heard it but got so excited by it he missed one as well so I got away with it."
Second overall after three eventful races was Hong Kong-based Canadian Chinese visitor Darryl O'Young who built on the promise he showed at the Timaru and Teretonga rounds of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series by qualifying fifth and improving in each race.
In the first one on Saturday afternoon he finished third behind Baird and Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge points leader Ross Rutherford then in the second on Sunday morning he finished a strong second behind Baird but well in front of young Australian driver Bryce Washington and Aucklander Dean Cockerton.
O'Young was then again impressive in the third race, getting another good start and slotting into what looked like another safe second place behind Baird.
But then the safety car out and bunched the field back up again, allowing a fired up Matt Halliday - who had already made up seven places - to close right up and when the safety car went back in again, attack.
Despite that O'Young ended up second overall behind Baird and afterwards reiterated that he liked the track and had been working to improve his car after each race.
"We worked really hard to improve the car and work at driving it better and we progressively got better," he said. "Second for the weekend was a really good result. I pushed hard throughout the weekend and there were a lot of guys putting pressure on me so I definitely think it was a good effort."
Third overall was Australian driver Bryce Washington. The 21-year-old former Australian Formula Ford championship front-runner didn't qualify as well as he did at the second round of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup in late November but worked his way forward in each race, finishing fifth in the first one, third in the second and sixth in the third.
"It would have been better to have a bit more speed, and to be honest I really struggled this weekend with my starts, but we managed to string some results together and that was enough to give us third for the weekend. It's hard to pass here and it is hard to get the car sorted for the track, but it is a good track."
And showing that he is quickly coming to terms with his new car is Dean Cockerton who set the eighth fastest time in qualifying then carded a competitive 7-4-7 run through the races.
Aucklander Cockerton recently bought the ex Stephane Ortelli '03-upgraded-to-'04 car and though he showed good form over the weekend reckons he is still getting used to it.
"We have had a good weekend, " he agreed, " but Mark (the team's engineer) and I are still really just learning the new car. I'm still driving it like a single-seater where I am quite hard into the turns but you have to be really smooth with these cars and that is an area that I am going to have to work on."
Though he lost the overall series lead he has held for two rounds, hard-charging Hamilton driver Ross Rutherford remains the man to beat in the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge for drivers aged 35 years and over. After this weekend's endeavours he has 1051 points, 195 more than second placed Rick Armstrong and 200 more than third placed Dean Fulford.
Rutherford was the only driver to get near Baird and Halliday in qualifying and was in the box seat when the latter was forced out of Saturday's race in its dying stages.
Unfortunately the 37-year-old copped a 30 second time penalty as a result of an incident late in the second race and spent the early part of the third making up ground from his P11 starting position.
Fellow Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge front-runner Dean Fulford had a similar problem in the third race, though he was eventually able to get past Graeme Cameron and set off after Paul Kelly and Angus McFarlane.
In terms of overall weekend results Rutherford continues to dominate the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge 'race within a race,' leading home fellow over-35-year-olds Rick Armstrong who finished fourth and Dean Fulford who finished sixth.
With the Christchurch round marking the end of the three-round Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup Challenge, the good news for local race fans is that the Trophy - won by a narrow margin by the Australians last season - must now be returned 'home.'
At 'end of play' New Zealand had amassed 1707 points to Australia's 1402!
There is now a break of just under a month before the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series resumes at Feilding's Manfeild Autocourse over the Feb 19-20 weekend.
<pre> 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Rnd 5 Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park Sat/Sun Jan 22/23
Race 2 1. Baird 14.35.634 2. O'Young 14.39.656 3. Washington 14.44.588 4. Cockerton 14.48.839 5. Armstrong 14.54.356 6. Bagnall 14.55.780 7. Kelly 15.01.970 8. McFarlane 15.02.193 9. Cameron 15.07.328 10. Halliday 15.07.630 11. Russ Rutherford 15.13.960 12. Morton 15.46.466
Race 3 1. Baird 24.32.451 2. Halliday 24.32.506 3. O'Young 24.49.690 4. Rutherford 24.51.544 5. Armstrong 24.52.003 6. Washington 24.53.160 7. Cockerton 25.00.893 8. Fulford 25.10.070 9. Kelly 25.12.358 10. Cameron 25.12.524 11. McFarlane 25.15.777 12. O'Donnell 25.32.317 13. Dalton 25.50.297 14. Morton 24.46.805
Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup
(Individuals' points standings after Rnd 5 of 8 1. Craig Baird Aust 927 2. Ross Rutherford NZ 850 3. Matt Halliday NZ 790 4. Dean Fulford NZ 696 5. Rick Armstrong NZ 660 6. Paul Kelly NZ 507 7. Graeme Cameron NZ 457 8. Darryl O'Young HK 454 9. Mike Weeks NZ 423 10. Angus McFarlane NZ 404 11. Scott O'Donnell NZ 389 12. Bryce Washington Aust 380 13. Andrew Bagnall NZ 378 14. Dean Cockerton NZ 369 15. Michael Morton NZ 335 16. Grant Dalton NZ 302 17. Shane McKillen NZ 260 18. Rhys McKay NZ 150 19. Jonathan Webb Aust 88 20. Jamie Peters NZ 61
Porsche Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup 1. New Zealand 1707 2. Australia 1402
Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge
(for drivers 35 and over) 1. Ross Rutherford 1051 2. Rick Armstrong 856 3. Dean Fulford 851 4. Graeme Cameron 626 5. Angus McFarlane 544 6. Mike Weeks 423 7. Scott O'Donnell 520 8. Michael Morton 518 9. Dean Cockerton 487 10. Andrew Bagnall 485 11. Grant Dalton 423 12. Shane McKillen 355
Next race: Rnd 6 Feb 19-20 Manfeild Autocourse Feilding