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NZ: Porsche GT3 Cup round five, day one notes

Baird Continues on His Winning Way Craig Baird continued on his winning way on the first day of competition at the fifth round of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park...

Baird Continues on His Winning Way

Craig Baird continued on his winning way on the first day of competition at the fifth round of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park today.

After winning two of the three races at the fourth round of the 2004/05 series at Invercargill's Teretonga Park last weekend the 34-year-old former New Zealand Grand Prix and 2 Litre Touring Car champion set the fastest time in the morning's qualifying session then led the 30 minute afternoon 'enduro' from start to finish - completing the trifecta with a new class lap record of 1.25.726, three-quarters of a second under the time fellow expat Jim Richards set at the January Trans Tasman GT3 Cup series meeting last year.

Series rival Matt Halliday got within 0.008 of a second of Baird's benchmark (1.24.850) pole time in qualifying and stayed within striking distance for much of the 30 minute race before pulling out with just three laps to go with a fuel problem.

"I'm not sure what happened, but I had a small misfire from about lap five onwards," Halliday said. "It was slowing us down a little bit but I thought, hey, no problem, I'll keep on going and see what happens. Then, with three laps to go the engine just died. I stopped and tried to restart it but it wouldn't fire, it was just turning over. These cars are just so reliable I don't really know what the problem is.

"The car was so good in qualifying too - we only did six laps and only used one set of our tyres. It was good in the first few laps of the race too."

With Halliday out of the picture second across the line was local-boy-made-good Ross Rutherford. The Christchurch-born Hamilton-based businessman, who held the lead in the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series points standings going into this weekend's meeting, was the only driver to get near Baird and Halliday in qualifying, and though in the early laps the pair slowly pulled away from him, the 37-year-old who also leads the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge fro drivers 35 years of age and over, maintained a similar gap to visiting Hong Kong-based Infineon Carrera Cup Asia driver Darryl O'Young, and set the third fastest race lap behind Baird and Halliday on his way to second place.

O'Young, who finished third and who is using the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series to sharpen up for the 2005 Infineon Carrera Cup Asia series, said he enjoyed the race and the track and spent most of the 30 minutes trying to bridge the gap which ebbed and flowed between himself and Rutherford.

"I got a good start, " he said, "but in the opening laps I made a couple of mistakes and allowed a gap to open up on Ross. I was always pushing hard to catch up to him though and on about the eighth lap I started closing on him a bit. But at that point I missed a (gear) shift which caused me to fall back about maybe five or six car lengths which I had to make up all over again."

By 24-year-old Canadian-born O'Young's reckoning Christchurch's flat but technically challenging 3.33 km Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park is the 11th track he has had to learn from scratch in just over twelve months.

"It does take a lot of work to drive new tracks," he admitted, " but you know, I enjoy this track a lot. It is very challenging and I think it is one of the best out of the three I have competed on so far here. It has got a good combination of slow and fast corners which makes it a little more challenging for the driver."

Rutherford continued 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.

Tomorrow, on the second day of competition at the fifth round of the eight round 2004/05 Battery Town series there are two more races for the GT3 Cup cars, a 10 lap one starting at 1.45pm and a 16 lap final due to start at 4.20pm.

<pre> 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Rnd 5 Powerbuilt Raceway at Ruapuna Park Sat/Sun Jan 22/23

Qualifying 1. Craig Baird Australia 1.24.850 2. Matt Halliday Auckland 1.24.858 3. Ross Rutherford Hamilton 1.25.200 4. Rick Armstrong Christchurch 1.25.200 5. Darryl O'Young Hong Kong 1.26.007 6. Bryce Washington Australia 1.26.054 7. Dean Fulford Auckland 1.26.998 8. Dean Cockerton Auckland 1.27.006 9. Andrew Bagnall Auckland 1.27.504 10. Paul Kelly Christchurch 1.27.541 11. Graeme Cameron Auckland 1.27.551 12. Grant Dalton Auckland 1.28.058 13. Scott O'Donnell Invercargill 1.28.300 14. Angus McFarlane Christchurch 1.28.489 15. Michael Morton Auckland 1.31.180

Race 1 1. Craig Baird 30.20.830 2. Ross Rutherford 30.42.847 3. Darryl O'Young 30.48.448 4. Rick Armstrong 31.00.334 5. Bryce Washington 31.03.151 6. Dean Fulford 31.23.733 7. Dean Cockerton 31.25.402 8. Paul Kelly 31.27.686 9. Scott O'Donnell 31.41.764 10. Andrew Bagnall 31.43.306 11. Grant Dalton 31.43.724 12. Michael Morton 31.50.067 DNF Graeme Cameron DNF Matt Halliday DNF Angus McFarlane DNS Shane McKillen

-fast company-

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