Reigning champion Craig Baird’s victory in Race 2 of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia at the Clipsal 500 was one of the New Zealander’s most significant – his 50th race win in the Australian one-make championship.
After victory in Friday’s Race 1, Baird again led into the opening corner and pulled a lengthy gap on the field from Steven Richards, Nick Percat, Warren Luff and Shae Davies.
Steven Johnson’s race was soon cut short after contact with Karl Reindler on the opening lap at the exit of Turn 9 caused suspension damage.
Baird’s stronghold of the race loosened mid-race from Richards, Percat and Luff after experiencing a deflating tyre – an occurance that hampered, but did not remove, his chances of race victory.
On Lap 8, Richards passed Baird into Turn 9 however Baird regained the lead on the following corner, allowing Percat to challenge Richards for second place.
The battle for second allowed Baird to again pull away from the field and claim his milestone 50th Porsche Carrera Cup Australia race win from 130 race starts in the category, finishing ahead of Richards, Percat, Davies, Luff, Reindler and Michael Patrizi in seventh, who progressed from 13th at the start of the race.
“It’s nice to get 50 race wins. It wasn’t the easiest win of my career, but it was great to reach that milestone,” said Baird.
“50 race wins doesn’t sound like a lot to me but when you look at the amount of race starts and all the hard work and heartache that everyone puts in, it’s a lot of races.
“I thought the race win was going to come easy once I gapped second place right at the start. I was just pushing as hard as I could to get a gap. I knew the other two guys were reasonably fast, but when I suffered the slight deflation in the front-left tyre I was in a world of hurt. A little bit of luck played into it too.”
The race played host to several entertaining battles in the Elite Class, namely the race-long stoush between class leaders Max Twigg and James Koundouris which played out until the chequered flag, with Twigg taking the honours.
Further behind, Tony Bates, Damien Flack, Matt Kingsley and Shane Smollen were challenging for position. Bates looked set for a solid finish until contact with Flack sent his Porsche into the tyre barrier at the second-to-last corner in the race’s closing stages. Flack was excluded from the race results due to the contact.
Twigg took a narrow 0.1-second Elite Class victory and eighth overall over Koundouris, ahead of Kingsley, Smollen, Marc Cini, Stephen Grove, James Bergmuller, Duvashen Padayachee, Renee Gracie and Tony Walls.
“We didn’t have a good qualifying, but we got back to where we wanted to be in Race 1, and then had the win in Race 2,” said Twigg.
“I was happy with that results. The pace was really good in the last third of the race. James and I just had another fantastic race, he is driving really well and I think it’s going to be an unreal championship this year. Bates and Flack are also doing well, so it’s going to be a really competitive season.”
Michael Loccisano failed to finish due to a broken throttle cable.