LAST MINUTE DEAL SEES BAIRD IN BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP RACES THIS WEEKEND
Accomplished Queensland-based New Zealand racing driver Craig Baird will be a busy man this weekend with news that he will in fact compete in the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup races at the Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway.
Having put the inaugural Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series title beyond anyone else's reach at the penultimate round at the Taupo Motor Racing Circuit a month ago, the 34-year-old former New Zealand Grand Prix and 2 Litre Touring Car champion indicated that he would be focusing all his resources at Pukekohe on his new V8 Supercar drive with the Wright Patton Shakespeare Ford team.
However with only two - rather than the usual three - races for the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup cars this weekend, the opportunity arose to combine the two campaigns.
Baird was keen, as was Wright Patton Shakespeare, the financial services company which as well as sponsoring the V8 Supercar team Baird drives for, also now sponsors Australia's Carrera Cup championship for Porsche GT3 Cup cars.
So a deal was done in which Baird will get back behind the wheel of the Paul Pedersen-owned Porsche GT3 Cup car he used to such good effect in the Battery Town series this season.
Fellow Aussie-based expat Jim Richards, who was to take his place in that car, will now drive the car run in earlier rounds by Christchurch's Rick Armstrong.
And joining the three expats on the grid will be regular New Zealand visitor Charlie O'Brien, the Queenslander who finished fourth overall in the 2003/04 Trans-Tasman Cup series for GT3 Cup cars.
Looking to keep Baird, Richards and O'Brien honest this weekend will be current Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series points runner-up Matthew Halliday, who won the first round of the series at Pukekohe Park Raceway in October last year, and Tag Heuer Challenge (for drivers aged 35 and over) pace-setter Ross Rutherford.
Hamiltonian Rutherford won two of the three races at the third round of the Battery Town series at Timaru after Baird and Halliday tangled in controversial circumstances in the second race.
The weekend's races will also benefit from a strong lineup of resident New Zealand drivers led by Dean Fulford and including Graeme Cameron, Scott O'Donnell, Andrew Bagnall, Angus McFarlane, Paul Kelly, Dean Cockerton, Rhys McKay, Mike Morton, yachty Grant Dalton and young gun Tim Martin
And joining the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series for the round are three of the Porsche GT3 Cup car drivers from the Bridgestone Porsche Series, Mike Eady, Nick Gordon and David Mackrell.
Ross Rutherford looks set to claim the top spot in the inaugural Tag Heuer Challenge at Pukekohe this weekend but behind him and second place man Dean Fulford a battle royal still exists for third place, with Angus McFarlane on 878 points, Rick Armstrong on 856 and Battery Town series rookie Mike Morton on 807.
Dean Cockerton, who has 756 points, could also improve his place with a couple of good performances on his home track.
Joining the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup cars on the support roster at the Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting are the Parker ENZED New Zealand V8 Touring Cars, Bridgestone Porsches, Formula Fords and new wings-and-slicks' Toyota Racing Series single-seaters.