GT

NZ: Porsche GT3 Cup Taupo, day two

BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP TITLE TO BAIRD Craig Baird is the 2004/05 Battery Town New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup champion after putting the title beyond anyone else's reach at the penultimate round of the 2004/05 series at the Taupo Motor...

BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP TITLE TO BAIRD

Craig Baird is the 2004/05 Battery Town New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup champion after putting the title beyond anyone else's reach at the penultimate round of the 2004/05 series at the Taupo Motor Racing Circuit over the weekend.

Baird, the Hamilton-born 34-year-old professional who now lives and does most of his racing in Australia, went into this weekend's meeting with an good chance of claiming the title and though arch-rival Halliday pipped him for fastest lap time in qualifying on Saturday and won the third and final race on Sunday the 2004/05 Battery Town title is Baird's whether he competes at next month's series final at Pukekohe or not.

For arch series and title rival Halliday it was a bitter-sweet weekend, with the promise of good tidings in qualifying on Saturday morning - where the 24-year-old was an incredible 0.002 of a second faster than Baird - but a lost opportunity in the first race when an attempt to pass fast-starter Baird went wrong at the hairpin.

Baird was able to continue - albeit with damage to the left-hand-side of his GT3 - but Halliday had to pit to replace a damaged right front rim and punctured tyre and ended up crossing the line in ninth place.

Though he was able to fight his way back up to third at the line in the second race, then find himself second after second-across-the-line Ross Rutherford was given a five second penalty for jumping the start, another win for Baird meant that any hope of a serious championship challenge was slipping from Halliday's grasp.

To his credit the young Kiwi international didn't give up, and won the incident-interrupted third and final race on Sunday afternoon after an aggressive 'I'm-coming-through' charge past Baird into the first corner,' but with 67 points for second place (cfm 75 for first) Baird needed only to cross the line in that position to put the title out of Halliday - or anyone else's - reach and that is exactly what he did.

Having won two races after Halliday and Baird tangled at the Timaru round of the 2004/05 Battery Town New Zealand Porsche GT3 Series, Hamilton driver Ross Rutherford saw an opportunity to further enhance his growing reputation and chased Baird to the flag, setting the fastest race lap on the way.

He kept the momentum up in the first race on Sunday too, only to be relegated from a fine second at the line - splitting Baird and Halliday - to third courtesy his time penalty.

Then any hope he had of taking the battle to the series' two full-time professionals in the 22-lap final race on Sunday afternoon were dashed when he slid off the track and beached his car in a gravel trap.

He was able to get the car back onto the track but was not classified as a finisher.

Despite that the Hamilton car dealer guaranteed himself the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge trophy for drivers 35-years-of-age and over, heading to the final round at the Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park in a month's time with 1351 points, 171 more than Aucklander Dean Fulford and 473 more than Christchurch's Angus McFarlane.

The Taupo meeting again saw some spirited racing amongst the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge contestants with Rutherford pipping Dean Cockerton, McFarlane and Fulford in qualifying, then leading home Cockerton, Fulford and Auckland's Rhys McKay in the first race, and Cockerton, Fulford and McFarlane in the second.

With Rutherford out of contention in the third race it was left to Dean Fulford to cross the line behind Halliday and Baird with Rhys McKay fourth, Paul Kelly fifth and McFarlane sixth.

With the final round of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series to be held at the final Placemakers Australian V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe next month several Australian Carrera Cup drivers are expected to supplement the ranks of the New Zealand drivers at the meeting.

<pre> 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Round 7 Taupo Motor Racing Circuit Taupo New Zealand March 12/13 2005

Race 2 -- 14 laps 1. Baird 9.12.048 2. Halliday +2.399 3. Rutherford +5.166 4. Cockerton +7.031 5. Fulford +8.952 6. McFarlane +12.384 7. Kelly +25.314 8. Dalton +38.333 9. Morton +1 lap DNF McKay Fastest lap: Matt Halliday 38.522

Race 3 -- 22 laps 1. Halliday 17.32.031 2. Baird +0.240 3. Fulford +13.765 4. McKay +15.663 5. Kelly +27.792 6. McFarlane +27.938 7. Dalton +36.823 8. Morton +5 laps Fastest lap: Craig Baird 38.858

(Individual points standings after Rnd 7 of 8) 1. Craig Baird (AUST) 1369 2. Matt Halliday (NZ) 1169 3. Ross Rutherford (NZ) 1097 4. Dean Fulford (NZ) 967 5. Paul Kelly (NZ) 760 6. Rick Armstrong (NZ) 660 7. Angus McFarlane (NZ) 647 8. Dean Cockerton (NZ) 592 9. Graeme Cameron (NZ) 538 10. Mike Morton (NZ) 538 11. Andrew Bagnall (NZ) 459 12. Darryl O'Young (HK) 454 12. Michael Morton (NZ) 333 13. Mike Weeks (NZ) 423 14. Grant Dalton (NZ) 423 15. Scott O'Donnell (NZ) 387 16. Bryce Washington (AUST) 380 17. Rhys McKay (NZ) 368 18. Shane McKillen (NZ) 260 19. Klark Quinn (AUST) 148 20. Jonathan Webb (Aust) 88 21. Jamie Peters (NZ) 61

Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge (for drivers 35 and over) 1. Ross Rutherford 1351 2. Dean Fulford 1180 3. Angus McFarlane 878 4. Rick Armstrong 856 5. Mike Morton 807 6. Dean Cockerton 756 7. Graeme Cameron 740 8. Andrew Bagnall 601 9. Grant Dalton 581 10. Mike Weeks 534 11. Scott O'Donnell 520 12. Shane McKillen 355

-fast company-

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