AUS: Baird joins Team VIP for final races

Kiwi V8 Supercar driver Craig Baird is the latest addition to the Australian Carrera Cup field for the remaining three rounds of the 2004 series starting with next weekend's round at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500. The 34-year-old Gold ...

Kiwi V8 Supercar driver Craig Baird is the latest addition to the Australian Carrera Cup field for the remaining three rounds of the 2004 series starting with next weekend's round at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500.

The 34-year-old Gold Coast-based Kiwi has taken the driver's seat in the number two Team VIP Petfoods Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car left available with the departure of rookie James Cressey.

Baird is having a solid season in his Team Kiwi Holden Commodore in the V8 Supercar Championship Series, highlighted by his pole position at the recent round in Winton, Victoria. He will join three other Carrera Cup drivers to do the V8 Supercar-Carrera Cup double at the next two rounds at Sandown and Bathurst.

The inclusion of Baird will add another exciting element to the Carrera Cup racing at Sandown, with 27 cars currently entered for the 'fastest and most successful one-make championship in the world'.

Baird is no stranger to Porsche racing with the Kiwi enjoying a couple of race wins in the Porsche Trans Tasman GT3 Cup series in New Zealand over the past summer, against opposition including Jim Richards, Matt Halliday and Charlie O'Brien.

"I love driving Porsches. When the opportunity came up, I was delighted to give it a go and do the double with the V8 Supercars. Especially at places like Bathurst, the more miles you do in a car, the quicker you go, so hopefully it will be beneficial for me in both categories," said Baird.

"It's my first time racing in a 2004 Porsche as I raced a 2002 car in the Trans Tasman series, so I'm looking forward to getting in the new model.

"Tony (Quinn) runs a good ship at Team VIP Petfoods, evidenced by their past success. I can see no reason why we can't run at the pointy end of the field for the remainder of the season."

The largest Carrera Cup field to line up in a championship round in Australia this year will feature a great top-end tussle between the four 'doubling-up' drivers.

Jim Richards (Jim Richards Racing / OAMPS Insurance Brokers), Alex Davison(Greg Murphy Racing / Glenfords Tool Centre), Fabian Coulthard (Greg Murphy Racing / Team Braun) and Baird will all double up at Sandown, striving for success in the all-Porsche category and then jumping into the 620-horsepower V8 beasts for the 500km enduro.

Richards was the victor at the Sandown round last year on his way to winning the inaugural Carrera Cup series in Australia with six round victories out of nine.

However this year Richards is the man doing the chasing in the championship, not vice versa. The current leader is Porsche young gun Davison, 24, who only encountered his first round defeat at the hands of Richards at Winton last month.

Prior to that Davison had driven his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to five consecutive round wins and a healthy lead in the championship standings.

With three rounds to go, Davison heads the driver's list on 960 points from Richards on 849 points and Coulthard on 774 points.

This season's rookie leader Coulthard can still mathematically win the championship but must rely on Davison and Richards not finishing a few races in the closing rounds.

The 21-year-old Melbourne-based Kiwi did celebrate his first race win in a Porsche at Winton, on his way to third place for the round behind Richards and Davison.

Plenty of interest surrounds the return of Matt Coleman and Dean Cook, both after nasty accidents in competition earlier this year.

Coleman has not raced since ploughing into the wall at the Clipsal 500 in March, six months after one of the most spectacular crashes of the year in 2003 at Sandown. Next weekend's round will bring bittersweet memories for the 31-year-old, who will be aiming to leave the circuit with a smile this year rather than a grimace.

While the Paragon Financial Group-backed Cook is returning to the track after severely damaging his 911 GT3 Cup car at the Foster's Australian Grand Prix in March.

Other drivers back in the Porsche fold at Sandown include Chris Seidler, Kevin Bell, Paul Pedersen and Peter Bradbury, while SupaBarn Supermarkets-backed brothers James and Theo Koundouris and Kiwi Graham Cameron (International Motorsport NZ / CAN AM Construction) will be making their Australian Carrera Cup debuts.

Round seven of the 2004 Australian Carrera Cup -- the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 begins with practice and qualifying on Friday September 10, race one and two over 14 laps on Saturday September 11 and race three also over 14 laps on Sunday September 12.

'Trackside' on Network Ten will telecast round seven of the Carrera Cup on Sunday September 19 at 2pm (check local guides).

The Carrera Cup is the most successful 'one make' championship in the world with close-to-identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built by Porsche' racing arm in Weissach, Germany set for racing in 2004. All cars have a top speed in excess of 300 kilometres per hour with a 400-horsepower, 6 cylinder Boxer engine which revs to 8000 RPM.

Circuit -- 3.1km anti-clockwise

Practice -- 11.45am Friday
Qualifying -- 2.55pm Friday

Race 1 -- 12.05pm Saturday (14 laps)
Race 2 -- 4.30pm Saturday (14 laps)
Race 3 -- 11.10am Sunday (14 laps)

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About this article
Series Porsche
Drivers Matthew Halliday , Greg Murphy , Jim Richards , Fabian Coulthard , Craig Baird , Alex Davison , Kevin Bell