NZ: Series Manfeild Park preview

BAIRD HOLDS ALL THE ACES AS BATTERY TOWN BATTLE HEADS TO MANFEILD Defending champion Craig Baird again holds all the aces heading into the penultimate round of this season's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Feilding's ...

BAIRD HOLDS ALL THE ACES AS BATTERY TOWN BATTLE HEADS TO MANFEILD

Defending champion Craig Baird again holds all the aces heading into the penultimate round of this season's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Feilding's Manfeild motor racing circuit this weekend.

Incredible as it may seem - particularly when the quality of the competition over the years is taken into account - the 39-year-old has won the last five New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup series. And with a 135 point buffer over long-time rival Matt Halliday heading into this weekend's round he is odds-on favourite to make it six before the end of this season.

Before the most recent round of the popular Battery Town-backed Porsche GT3 Cup Car-based series at Timaru Halliday had whittled down the points gap between himself and Baird to 86 points. Afterwards, however, the difference had ballooned out to 135 with both Daniel Gaunt and fellow former single-seater star Jonny Reid snapping at Halliday's heels.

After a race win and second spot on the podium at Invercargill the weekend before, Los Angeles-based international Halliday headed to Timaru with every reason to be confident. But he was on the back foot from the start after a heavy crash on a slippery track in qualifying.

Top Australian driver David Reynolds - who missed the first round of the 2009/10 series but won the second and third from Baird and Halliday - also had problems at Timaru.

The 24-year-old former Carrera Cup Australia champion shadowed Baird in qualifying and the first two races, even getting the jump on the defending series champ at the start of the second, only to be forced out of the longer reverse top six grid final by a holed water radiator.

That left Baird with his points bonus and his Triple X Motorsport teammates Courtney Letica - who won the reverse top six grid final - and Gaunt sharing the podium with him for the second time this season.

The big story in the Mothers 996 Cup category (for drivers of earlier 996 model GT3 Cup cars) meanwhile, is whether or not defending title holder Hugh Gardiner can wrest back the points lead from rookie Simon McLennan this weekend.

In his second season in the category, Aucklander Gardiner has been doing incredible things in his 996 but has been in fightback mode since losing out on a valuable double points opportunity in The Mad Butcher mini-enduro at the second round in Christchurch.

After another round-winning performance at Timaru, however, he has narrowed the gap to impressive rookie McLennan to just 14 points. Fellow former kart champ Simon Evans remains third in the Mothers 996 Cup standings after a couple of strong races at Timaru, with Bridgestone Porsche series graduate Colin Caldwell fourth and Dunedin businessman Allan Dippie - who joined the series at Teretonga and Timaru - fifth.

Dippie isn't making the trip this weekend but his car is. It will be driven by talented young Auckland driver Gene Rollinson.

A five-time New Zealand kart champion before his move 'up the ladder' to cars, Rollinson, 23, has gone on to enjoy success in single-seaters, production cars, New Zealand V8s and the Fujitsu V8 Series across the Tasman and is a welcome addition to the Mothers 996 Cup ranks.

After double points/$10,000 prize money The Mad Butcher-sponsored 100 km mini-enduros at the first three rounds of this season's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship series the format at Manfeild this weekend follows that of the fourth round at Timaru last month with three sprint races, the first over 12 laps on Saturday afternoon, a second 12 lapper on Sunday morning and a 16 lap reverse top six grid final on Sunday afternoon.

-source: fast company

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Series Porsche
Drivers Craig Baird , Daniel Gaunt , Jonny Reid , Simon Evans , David Reynolds , Allan Dippie , Gene Rollinson , Matt Halliday