NZ: Series Timaru Saturday report

BAIRD PROVES BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE BATTLE IS NOT OVER YET Defending champion Craig Baird was back to his winning best on the first day of competition at the fourth round of the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ...

BAIRD PROVES BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE BATTLE IS NOT OVER YET

Defending champion Craig Baird was back to his winning best on the first day of competition at the fourth round of the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at the Timaru International Motor Raceway this afternoon.

After being overshadowed by Triple X Motorsport teammate David Reynolds at the past two rounds of the 2009/10 series Battery Town Porsche series five-time champion Baird looked like he might finally have met his match.

If he has, however, he proved today that he is not going down without a fight.

In qualifying, in cool, damp conditions on a slick and treacherous track this morning, he beat both Reynolds and fellow Triple X teammate Daniel Gaunt to claim pole position. Then in the first race of the weekend in the afternoon he beat Reynolds off the line to lead the 12 laps from start to finish.

" I thought it was going to be hard starting from the inside," said Baird's whose track position put him off-line for the run through the first series of corners. "But I took it easy off the start, picked up some traction, got to the first corner first and that was that really."

On his way to what was his first race win of the New Year, the 39-year-old now 21-time New Zealand champion also set the fastest race lap and a new GT3 Cup category lap record for the 2.4km Timaru International Motor Raceway circuit.

"The lap record was there for the taking really, " he said. "The track is in good nick, with some new seal down. And using brand new tyres because of qualifying in the wet -- we had that extra bit more grip."

In stark contrast 24-year-old Melbourne-based former Carrera Cup Australia champion Reynolds was lucky to hold on to second place after bogging his GT3 Cup car off the start then found himself under attack from a fired-up Daniel Gaunt.

Gaunt impressed with a from-the-front charge in the third race at the Teretonga round of the Battery Town series last weekend and looked even stronger today, twice catching Reynolds though never quite able to find a way past.

"Yes, " he said afterwards," the car just kept coming on and I think that if I had been able to get clear of David I think we would have been able to run with Craig."

Long-time Baird and Reynolds rival Matt Halliday split the pair on the round podium at Teretonga last weekend but any chance the now Los Angeles-based international had of taking the battle to the pair was dashed when he hit the wall lining the start/finish straight on his outlap in the qualifying session in the morning.

"We went out on a fresh set of wets and just got caught out by the conditions," he explained. " It was like ice on the new tyres and though I anticipated that it would be slippery out there it wasn't enough obviously."

Damage to the car was substantial but Halliday's International Motorsport crew members were able to strip the front end of the car and replace the front subframe, left-hand suspension components and wheel and tyre and have Halliday on the grid for the race - an impressive feat in the two-and-a-half hours available.

With no time from the morning's qualifying session Halliday had to start the race from the back of the grid but quickly worked his way through to the field to cross the line in sixth place, behind Courtney Letica and in front of fellow young gun Mitch Cunningham.

Having split Letica and Cunningham in qualifying Mothers 996 Cup category (for drivers of the older model 996 Cup Cars) pace-setter Hugh Gardiner started the race from the third row of the grid.

In the dry conditions in the afternoon's race however the advantage reverted to the more powerful and better braked 997 models, Gardiner eventually shuffled back to a still very credible 10th place by Cunningham, Christchurch car dealer Paul Kelly (making a return to the Battery Town category after missing the Teretonga round) and Triple X Motorsport team boss Shane McKillen.

A little further back meanwhile, the series' two Simons, Simon McLennan and Simon Evans, engaged in an entertaining scrap for second spot on the Mothers 996 Cup podium, the nod eventually going to Wellingtonian McLennan though Aucklander Evans set a slightly quicker best lap time.

Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship continues at the Hampsta 200 meeting at the Timaru International Motor Raceway tomorrow with a second 12 lap sprint race in the morning then a 16 lap reverse top six grid final in the afternoon.

The championship chase then heads north for the penultimate points round at Feilding's Manfeild circuit over the February 13-14 weekend and the final at the Taupo Motorsport Park on March 20 and 21.

-source: fast company

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Series Porsche
Drivers Craig Baird , Daniel Gaunt , Simon Evans , Paul Kelly , David Reynolds , Mitch Cunningham , Matt Halliday