TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: Swedish manufacturer Volvo has recruited former BMW and Ford works driver Craig Baird as part of a star-studded team led by Jim Richards to defend its Bathurst Super Touring crown at Mount Panorama on October 3. The other...
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: Swedish manufacturer Volvo has recruited former BMW and Ford works driver Craig Baird as part of a star-studded team led by Jim Richards to defend its Bathurst Super Touring crown at Mount Panorama on October 3.
The other drivers in Volvo's two-car works team announced today for the 500km Super Touring feature event on the Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst '99 program are Queenslander Cameron McLean and Victorian Matthew Coleman.
Richards, who recorded his sixth Bathurst endurance victory in 1998 in a Volvo, will team up with McLean in a front-drive S40, with New Zealander Baird and Coleman in the other car. They will also contest a 100km Super Touring race at Mount Panorama on October 2.
Baird won four New Zealand Touring Car Championship titles and also raced in South Africa and Australia as a BMW works driver up to the end of 1997. The following year he drove a works front-drive Ford Mondeo in the British Touring Car Championship before settling in Queensland.
The 31-year-old has an imposing record on the 6.2km Mount Panorama circuit, winning two of the three Super Touring support events before the 1996 Bathurst 1000. In 1997 Baird and Queensland's Paul Morris finished first in the Bathurst 1000 in a works BMW 320, but were later disqualified when it was found Baird had exceeded the continuous driving limit of 3-hours and 30-minutes.
"I've done plenty of laps around Bathurst so I know my way around the circuit," said Baird. "You have to keep the car straight because if you 'scrub' off speed on the way up the mountain you lose momentum."
"It won't take long to get familiar with the Volvo - fortunately I've had a season racing a front-wheel-drive car (Ford Mondeo) in Britain so that will help. I've raced against Volvos and they're always competitive. This team has won Bathurst before so they know what's required to finish."
"I'd like nothing more than finally winning this race, especially after the dramas a couple of years ago when we were disqualified."
Richards, who finished second in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship, believes Volvo's team is capable of a second successive Bathurst victory.
"It's a great line-up and it's important that each driver has plenty of experience racing front-wheel-drive cars like the Volvo," said the 52-year-old from Melbourne.
McLean won the Independents Cup in the Australian Super Touring Championship in 1997-98, before switching to the V8 Supercar category this year. The 31-year-old from Brisbane was recruited by Volvo for the final round of this year's Australian Super Touring Championship at Calder Park in August and finished a creditable third in the final race.
Coleman, a 26-year-old professional ski coach at Mount Buller, is in his first year of Super Touring racing. He drove a works Audi A4 in the Australian Super Touring Championship and finished fourth.
"I've only done about 10 laps around Bathurst in a production car, so this is going to be a big challenge," said Coleman. "At the same time I'm pretty happy with what I've achieved in my first season in Super Touring. Our aim at Bathurst is simple - to get the Volvos across the line in first and second place."
Experienced New Zealand rally driver ROGER TOWNSHEND will partner Sydney veterinarian Dr JIM CORNISH in an ex-works Nissan Primera in the Super Touring races at Bathurst. Sydney-based Project Racing team manager Nigel Barclay announced the driver combination today and said the car would feature new engine, gearbox, and suspension components sourced from Great Britain and Sweden. Townshend has raced a Super Touring car once before, when he drove a Honda Accord to ninth place in the Australian championship round at Oran Park in Sydney in May.
Sydney's JENNI THOMPSON is the second female driver entered in the event. Thompson, who also raced at Bathurst the past two years, will partner Perth's ALLAN LETCHER in a BMW 318. The only other female entered is 19-year-old Leanne Ferrier, who will race a Ford Mondeo with fellow-Sydney driver Dean Canto.
Japan will be represented in the Super Touring races at Bathurst by EIJI TAJIMA and DILANTHA MALAGAMUWA in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V1. The car is in the international Group N category. Neither has raced at Mount Panorama before.
Courtesy: Mike Porter