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NZ: Series Timaru Saturday report

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BAIRD REMAINS ON TOP AT TIMARU

After fighting back to win the third round of the 2010/11 New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Championship at Invercargill's Teretonga Park Raceway last weekend, defending category champion Craig Baird remained the man to beat on the first day of competition at the fourth round of the series at the Timaru International Motor Raceway this afternoon.

In cool, dry conditiions the 40-year-old Queensland-based Kiwi pipped both 2010/11 championship points leader Daniel Gaunt and last season's series runner-up and Rookie of The Year Jonny Reid to top the time sheets in qualifying in the morning then rocketed away from the start to lead the first 12 lap race of the weekend from start to finish.

Having won the first round of the 2010/11 Porsche GT3 Cup series when Baird had a puncture in one race and a drive-through penalty in another, then claimed a clean sweep over Baird and Reid at the second, Daniel Gaunt didn't have to win today's race to retain his healthy series points lead.

But any hopes he had of even taking the fight to his Triple X Motorsport teammate were dashed before the end of the first lap as the International Motorsport team's lead driver Jonny Reid latched onto his car's tail.

"The other two battling for position certainly obviously helped, " Baird said of a race in which he quickly pulled out an impressive buffer on the rest of the field, set the fastest lap and crossed the finish line just over two seconds in front.

Reid, who had been quickest in testing at the track on Friday, was never more than a car length behind Gaunt, but despite plenty of probing could find a chunk in the championship points leader's amour.

Fourth after a lonely race was Reid's International Motorsport teammate Mitch Cunningham though Triple X Motorsport's young gun Scott Harrison closed within striking distance with two laps to go.

At one stage it looked like the impressive young Whangarei driver was closer enough to put in a pass, but at the flag Cunningham's advantage had stretched back out to half a second.

"I had good car speed, and when Mitch went off at Turn 1 at one stage I was able to catch right up but though I kept on pushing it would have been quite hard to pull off a pass, "said Harrison.

Behind Harrison came Triple X Motorsport team boss Shane McKillen, then the first two 996 Cup competitors, points leader Simon McLennan and namesake Simon Evans.

Evans was never far behind but like Harrison didn't quite got close enough to make a clean pass on the car ahead.

"I certainly had to keep an eye on my mirrors that time, but bar one little mistake from me the race went pretty much to plan, "said McLennan. "The car was perfect and I just focused on running clean, fast lines and making sure I didn't give Simon any opportunity to get any closer than he did."

Completing the order was Paul Kelly, who spent the race circulating in ninth place after coming off second best in the first lap scrum at the first turn with Michael Morton tenth and the Aucklander Mark Maddren, having his second series run this season, eleventh.

Tomorrow brings two more New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series races, a second 12 lap sprint in the morning and a reverse-top-six grid final over 16 laps in the afternoon.

-source: pcc nz

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