IRWIN Racing press release
Porsche star Craig Baird will join Lee Holdsworth in the #4 IRWIN Racing Ford Falcon at the Sandown 500 and the Bathurst 1000.
Baird, one of New Zealand’s most successful drivers, was Lee Holdsworth’s only choice when it came to endurance race co-drivers.
“Ross (Stone) asked me who I'd like to be with and Craig (Baird) was my number one choice,” said Lee Holdsworth.
“He's a very confident driver and reliable. He’s done plenty of laps and is familiar with the team, which goes a long way; I'm really thrilled to have him join us.”
Holdsworth believes that Baird will be the perfect Bathurst and Sandown co-driver.
“I like that he is safe, he keeps out of trouble, he’s quick but doesn’t do anything silly,” said Holdsworth.
“He’s at the top of the list as an endurance driver and someone that can bring the car back to you in a decent position with no damage.
“At the recent test day he was excellent, he gave similar feedback to what I was saying, we were both wanting the same things out of the car.
“His lap times were also on the mark straight away, which is what you want from your co-driver.
“He's also a decent guy; I’ve always held him in very high regard.”
For Baird, his return to IRWIN Racing is a homecoming of sorts. He raced with Stone Brothers Racing in the 1999 endurance events and as a full-time driver in 2000.
Signing to return to the Stone Brothers camp was an easy one for Baird who has the utmost respect for team owners Ross and Jimmy Stone and Lee Holdsworth.
“It was an easy decision, I’ve watched Lee (Holdsworth) closely over the last few years and he kind of reminds me of Marcos Ambrose,” said Baird.
“He is very methodical with his racing; he gets the job done with a limited amount of fuss.
“I think he will surprise a few people this year, he's young, he’s fit and he’s fast, I think his biggest thing is his work ethic, not just behind the wheel, but when he's outside the car.
“Just watching him at the test day last week, he slowly goes through his programme and ticks all the boxes along the way. That's the mark of a champion.”
Having driven the IRWIN Tools Ford at the team’s second season test at Queensland Raceway, Baird is already feeling comfortable with the car.
“It was good, certainly different to what I’m used to, but I came to terms with it relatively quickly,” said Baird.
“I said to Ross (Stone) all I wanted to do was get a few laps, get a feel for the car, so I know what to expect and get a feel for how I need to change to get the most out of the IRWIN Ford.”
“You have to adapt the driving style. The nice part of the test was what I was asking for in the car, Lee was asking for. We are already heading in the same direction.”
Baird is excited to be driving with Holdsworth; someone he believes has the potential to be a V8 Supercars champion.
“I have no doubt that (Lee) will be at the front,” said Baird.
“I’ve watched his progress and he is solid. There're a lot of guys out there with the speed, but do they have the mental strength and the other components needed to be a V8 Supercar champion?
“If you ask that question of Lee, he has all the skills on and off the track to bring SBR a championship.”
Having raced at Bathurst for over 20 years, Baird believes he brings the right credentials to IRWIN Racing that will help set the team up at the year’s endurance rounds.
“I don’t need to prove anything,” said Baird.
“I can jump in the car relatively easily and post competitive times, which I proved last week at the test.
“I know what my role is within the team and that’s to be a solid co-driver, fit in and adapt to the team, deliver in my stints in each race, stay on the lead lap and not make mistakes.
“I know when to push and if conditions aren’t right or the car isn’t right I’ll do the right thing so that I give him the car in one piece.”
With his co-driver confirmed Holdsworth can now focus on the job of winning races.
“To have Craig (Baird) signed well before the season has started is brilliant for me and the team,” said Holdsworth.
“We can now get on with it.
“It shows me that IRWIN Racing wants to win and we'll do everything it takes. You couldn’t ask for more.”
Lee Holdsworth and Craig Baird will team up for the Sandown 500 in September and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in October.