NZ GT3: Series Pukekohe preview

BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE TITLE BAIRD'S FOR THE TAKING Four round wins from the five so far held this season mean that Craig Baird has one hand on another Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship title trophy as he heads...

BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE TITLE BAIRD'S FOR THE TAKING

Four round wins from the five so far held this season mean that Craig Baird has one hand on another Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship title trophy as he heads into the final round of the 2008/09 series at Pukekohe this weekend.

After a wet 'n wild penultimate series round at Manfeild a fortnight ago the 38-year-old Queensland-based expat has 1070 points, 99 more than teammate and season-long rival David Reynolds and 314 more than third placed Daniel Gaunt.

It's been another copybook season for the experienced Baird -- who looks set to claim his fourth New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup title this weekend - with race and round wins at the first and second and fourth and fifth rounds.

That young Australian driver Reynolds, like Baird also a Carrera Cup Australia champion, has been the worthiest of rivals goes without saying, having claimed three poles to Baird's two and won five races and the round at Timaru.

But a dnf at the opening 08/09 round at Pukekohe Park has meant he has always been in catchup mode.

After his clean sweep at the Timaru round in early January, with pole and three race wins over Baird and Gaunt, it looked like he might have a shot.

However 'normal service' was resumed at Teretonga the weekend after with Baird on pole and leading Reynolds home in two of the three races.

Starts -- as Baird has learned over the years -- have again been critical with the ability to get off the line just as important as getting the most out of the car in qualifying.

If anything they have become even more important this season as the Battery Town category's contingent of young guns edge closer to category professionals Baird, Reynolds and Gaunt.

Third-generation racer Jono Lester remains fourth in the points standings heading into the final after another dynamic season which has already included a race win (in the reverse top six final at the opening round at Pukekohe).

He, perennial series hard-charger Jody Vincent, and second-generation racer Ant Pedersen have never given less than 100% all season and have reaped the resultant rewards.

As has Australian Rodney Forbes, the former V8 Supercar ace who crosses the Tasman each month to run with the Triple X team.

He heads into the final in fifth place in the series points standings, 49 points behind Lester and 22 in front of Jody Vincent.

Ant Pedersen is seventh with 593 points, Wellington's Darryn Henderson the first of the businessmen/racers eighth with 569 and Giltrap Group team car driver Mark Russ ninth with 533.

Triple X team boss Shane McKillen rounds out the top ten just ahead of his team's series rookie Courtney Letica in eleventh.

A strong comeback drive at Manfeild also helped 996 category points leader Hugh Gardiner make up for a no-score due to a heavy accident at Teretonga.

Keen to stay in the game Gardiner bought a new car and heads to Pukekohe in 12th place overall with a 146 point buffer over fellow 996 runner Rob Steele.

-credit: nz gt3

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Series Road racing
Drivers Rodney Forbes , Daniel Gaunt , David Reynolds , Ant Pedersen , Jono Lester