CARRERA CUP LEADER ON GUARD AT IPSWICH THIS WEEKEND Craig Baird (ACER/Leading Solutions) might have opened a commanding lead at the top of the Carrera Cup Australia Championship but there will be plenty of drivers gunning for him this weekend...
CARRERA CUP LEADER ON GUARD AT IPSWICH THIS WEEKEND
Craig Baird (ACER/Leading Solutions) might have opened a commanding lead at the top of the Carrera Cup Australia Championship but there will be plenty of drivers gunning for him this weekend during the City of Ipswich 400 at Queensland Raceway.
A combination of brilliant driving from Baird and bad luck for his closest rivals has seen him increase his lead at the top of the Championship to over 200 points, but with four rounds still to run -- including this weekend where the all-Porsche category will support the V8 Supercar Championship Series -- Baird knows he can't afford to take it easy.
"Four wins out of five isn't a bad way to start the season and we are obviously heading in the right direction," Baird said.
"But there is still a long way to go in the Championship and all it takes is one bad round for the pack to catch up so I can't afford to take anything for granted."
Baird's packed schedule at QR -- he'll drive for the Toll Holden Racing Team in Friday's V8 co-driver session as well as the Fujitsu Development Series -- means he could be vulnerable, and one driver intent on making up ground is Dean Fiore (Complispace/Advance Energy) who is second on the table heading into the round.
The Melbourne-based driver has slumped from equal top before Round Three to 228 points behind Baird heading into Round Six and he knows he can't drop any more points if he is to stay in touch of the 2006 Carrera Cup Australia champion.
"I'm not going to panic coming into this round, it's all about chipping away at Bairdo and trying to win as many races as I can," he said.
"I know I'm not going to make up all the points in one round so I'll just aim to win races, keep my composure and not do anything stupid."
Queenslander David Russell has soared up the championship table to third after the two most recent rounds and with his knowledge of the "Paperclip" circuit he's a good bet for race wins this weekend.
Russell showed good pace at Queensland Raceway on Monday at a Carrera Cup test day and the gains made then will stand him in good stead for the round.
"I was quite happy where we ended up," he said.
"We didn't run new tyres like a few of the cars did and my times were down around the best for the day so I'm reasonably happy with where we are at and where we are placed for the weekend."
Sydney's David Wall (Shannons Insurance) is another driver happy with where he is placed at the moment.
After claiming his first ever Carrera Cup race win at Sandown in June, the Jim Richards backed Wall was among the fastest at the test day at Queensland Raceway on Monday and is confident he can back that up come the weekend.
"We got the car the way we wanted and once we did I was able to push on and do the times I wanted to do," he said.
"Following the race win at Sandown with being the fastest at the official test day is a good omen so hopefully it continues into the weekend."
Also on a high at the moment is Adelaide's Bryce Washington (ADRAD).
He finished third overall in Round Five at Sandown, his highest ever Carrera Cup finish, and even though QR hasn't been a happy hunting ground in the past he is well placed to reverse the trend.
"Out of all the circuits QR is probably the track I do the worst at although I'm not sure why," he said.
"But now is as good a time as any to change that and the top five is where I'll be aiming."
Also aiming for the top five will be Brisbane's Paul Stokell (Sherrin Rentals).
He returned to Carrera Cup competition at Sandown and after finishing eighth overall in Melbourne, has his eye on challenging the front runners.
"I was happy with the pace of the car in Melbourne and hopefully we can bring that to QR," he said.
"Finishing eighth overall was a reasonable effort after qualifying 12th but if we'd qualified better we would have finished further up than that, but I think there's no doubt we will be competitive this weekend."
Carrera Cup Australia begins its weekend assault on the "Paperclip" with two practice sessions on Friday.
Qualifying and Race One follow, which Network Seven will broadcast at 3.30pm (check local guides) on Saturday, before Races Two and Three complete the weekend on Sunday.
Pic caption: Craig Baird (ACER/Leading Solutions) leads the field on his way to winning Carrera Cup Round Five at Sandown International in June.