BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE DRIVERS BACK TO WORK THIS WEEKEND
It's a case of back to work after a Christmas/New Year break for teams contesting this season's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship with two rounds in the Deep South over the next two weekends.
Invercargill's Teretonga Park hosts the third round of the 2009/10 Battery Town series this weekend, Timaru International Motor Raceway the fourth a weekend later.
The popular Porsche GT3 Cup car series then returns north for the fifth and penultimate round at Feilding's Manfeild circuit in February, the final points round at Taupo in March and a Trophy round at the Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting in Hamilton in April.
Heading south the big news for defending series champion and early 2009/10 points leader Craig Baird is his latest title. In the New Year's Honour's List, Baird's contribution to motorsport in New Zealand was recognised with a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit award.
The award is a fitting tribute to the 39-year-old who has won the past five Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship titles, the latest bringing his tally of New Zealand championship titles to 21.
Baird has a 102 point lead in the series points standings heading to the Teretonga/Timaru double-header with Triple X Motorsport teammate Daniel Gaunt second in the points and Auckland international Matt Halliday third.
Leading the new Mothers 996 Trophy category for drivers of older model 996 GT3 Cup cars meanwhile, is impressive series rookie, 21-year-old Simon McLennan, from Wellington.
Baird's impressive early season lead was forged at the the opening round of the 2009/10 Battery Town series at Pukekohe in early November last year when he got the better of fastest qualifier Matt Halliday to win the first of the new $10,000 prize money/double-points The Mad Butcher-sponsored 100km mini-enduro races on Saturday afternoon.
Halliday found himself in catch up mode after suffering a puncture in that race and though Australian David Reynolds - who missed the Pukekohe round - beat Baird to the line in all three races at the second round at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park later in November, the damage - in terms of overall series points - had been done.
That said, Halliday and new International Motorsport teammate Jonny Reid present a formidible challenge to Triple X teammates Baird, Gaunt and Reynolds and this weekend's meeting at Teretonga offers Halliday the opportunity to take the battle back to Baird.
With the 15-strong field at each of the first two rounds there's also been plenty of mid-pack action to keep race fans on their feet, with Ant Pedersen, Courtney Letica and 2008/09 Toyota Racing Series champion Mitch Cunningham providing the youth and Paul Kelly, Triple X team boss Shane McKillen and category stalwart Andrew Bagnall the experience.
Letica had a heavy crash in qualifying at the second round but is back to full fitness and has a new car - the one Triple X team boss Shane McKillen started the season in - for the remainder of the Battery Town series.
McKillen has bought a new 997 to replace the car Letica will now drive, while joining the series for the first time this weekend is Dunedin driver Allan Dippie in one of the earlier 996 model GT3 Cup cars.
Dippie joins the battle for the the Mothers 996 Cup category where defending 996 category title holder Hugh Gardiner is another in fightback mode after a dnf in The Mad Butcher 100km mini-enduro race at the second round.
Aucklander Gardiner held a healthy points lead over 19-year-old kart-and-Formula Ford graduate Simon Evans, and fellow rookie Simon McLennan, heading into the second round, only to miss out on a double points haul of his own when he ran out of petrol with just three laps to go.
That has given the series points lead in the Mothers 996 Cup category to the consistent McLennan with Evans just four points back in second and Gardiner 43 points adrift in third.
This weekend's Battery Town series round at Teretonga retains the same format as the first two rounds with a The Mad Butcher-sponsored 100km mini-enduro on Saturday and a pair of sprint races on Sunday.
At Timaru however the format reverts to its traditional 'sprint' style with a shorter 12 lap race on Saturday and 1 x 12 lap fastest-to-the-front/1 x16 lap reverse-top-six-grid races on Sunday.
-source: fast company