POLE MAN BAIRD TAKES WIN NUMBER AT PUKEKOHE Pole man Craig Baird took Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series win number 14 on the first day of competition at the two-day Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway this ...
POLE MAN BAIRD TAKES WIN NUMBER AT PUKEKOHE
Pole man Craig Baird took Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series win number 14 on the first day of competition at the two-day Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway this afternoon.
The 34-year-old Queensland-based expat who is competing in both the V8 Supercar and Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series categories this weekend was beaten off the line by fellow front row starter Matt Halliday, but was gifted the lead he held for the rest of the 12 lap race when Halliday drifted wide through the Placemakers esses.
"I just got caught out on a bit of the dirt the V8s left there," said Halliday. "In the races I've won here before I've always pushed 100% on the first lap and opened up a gap. It didn't quite work out this time."
To add insult to injury when he caught back up on Baird Halliday hit debris on the back straight and damaged his car.
"When I pulled out to pass him I hit it (the debris) and lost the splitter. That made it even tougher (to get close enough to Baird to challenge for the lead)."
While all this was going on Baird drove another text book race, underlining his superiority by setting a new class lap record on the penultimate lap.
At 58.944 it was not quite as fast as his pole time in qualifying (58.680) but it was still over half a second under the existing class lap record (59.587) set by Halliday at the first round of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series in November last year.
Following Baird and Halliday across the finishing line to claim third place was special guest 'Gentleman' Jim Richards.
Evergreen expat Richards was never more than a couple of car lengths behind Halliday but like Halliday couldn't quite find a way past the car in front.
"It was a fantastic race, and you know, we were right with Craig and Matt for probably three-quarters of the race but I didn't have the speed to pass them (Halliday and/or Baird)," Richards said.
Fourth for a season-best finish was Auckland businessman/racer Andrew Bagnall who impressed everyone with his pace in qualifying then dipped into the 59s for the first time in the race to cross the line just 10 and a half seconds behind Baird.
Modestly attributing his pace to his preference for fast circuits Bagnall paid tribute to the recent re-sealing work carried out at the Pukekohe track.
"I love fast tracks," he said. "I have done a lot of driving on tracks like Spa and Le Mans, tracks which you really have to carry a lot of speed through the corners to make your time up. Very exciting. And Pukekohe is like that. You have to be very precise and it is an extraordinarily good feeling to know that you have gone through a very fast corner, very fast."
Pukekohe Park Raceway is regarded as one of the fastest tracks in Australasia and with the long-promised drainage work completed and key parts of the circuit resealed twice in recent weeks the bumps which used to make the track such a test for drivers are now a thing of the past.
Bagnall: "Yes. With the new, smoother surface it just seems to be easier to keep the speed up and find that little bit of grip between the tyres and the road without the car being upset by the enormous bumps that used to throw the car round here."
Young Auckland driver Tim Martin continued the good form he showed in qualifying by finishing fifth, just ahead of Dean Fulford. Queenslander Charlie O'Brien crossed the line in fourth place but was penalised five seconds for being adjudged to have jumped the start, dropping him down the finishing order to seventh between Fulford and fellow Aucklander Rhys McKay.
There are two Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series races at Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend, the second set to start at 10.35am tomorrow morning.
<pre> 2004/05 Battery Town New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Series Rnd 8 (Final) Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe New Zealand April 15/16/17 2005
Race 1 1. Craig Baird 11.57.523 2. Matt Halliday +0.320 3. Jim Richards +3.034 4. Andrew Bagnall +10.540 5. Tim Martin +11.284 6. Dean Fulford +11.474 7. Charlie O'Brien +14.335 8. Rhys McKay +15.914 9. Dean Cockerton +16.292 10. Graeme Cameron +19.720 11. Angus McFarlane +20.159 12. Paul Kelly +33.107 13. Grant Dalton +35.096 14. Nick Gordon +49.175 15. Scott O'Donnell +53.178 16. David Mackrell +1 lap 17. Michael Morton +2 laps DNF Ross Rutherford.