Versatile Kiwi racer Craig Baird has broken his Townsville winless streak with victory in Saturday’s opening Porsche Carrera Cup Australia race, while Elite Class race winner Shane Smollen is out to complete unfinished business.
Baird started Saturday by claiming the TAG Heuer Pole Position Award, only completing two flying laps in qualifying early in the session to secure the front position on the grid.
The reigning champion then quickly took control of the race, taking the early lead from Nick Percat into the opening corner.
Baird and Percat pulled away from the field, leaving an enthralling four-way battle for third between Warren Luff, Michael Patrizi, Steven Richards and Shae Davies.
Baird's gap at the front quickly disappeared when the safety car was called mid-race while the Porsche of Renee Gracie, which came to rest on the circuit, was removed.
Baird retained the lead on the restart and eventually claimed his first victory at the North Queensland circuit from Percat, Luff, Patrizi, Richards and Davies.
With Baird’s winless streak on the Townsville streets over, and a strong bank of tyres in his arsenal, the New Zealander is looking forward to tomorrow’s competition.
“We started the day off well; I only did two flying laps in qualifying and saved a full set of tyres so I still have a ‘green’ set of tyres to come,” said pole-sitter Baird, who was relieved with his maiden Townsville win.
“This has been our bad round every year and we knew we had to turn it around. This whole weekend is going opposite to what it has done in the past.
“I’ve come here previously and battled for seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths and I’ve never won a race here. Now, the car set-up is absolutely magic. I also did a track walk with Dave Reynolds and Dan Gaunt on Thursday, let them do all the talking and picked up a few things. It’s great to now get my first win here, but the nicest part is that we’ve still got a fresh set of tyres to come.”
Elite Class pole-sitter Smollen continued his qualifying form into the opening race, holding off race-long challenger Duvashen Padayachee to finish seventh, with Padayachee, Damien Flack and Tony Bates rounding out the top 10.
Smollen was pleased with his Saturday pace, however the Sydneysider has unfinished business after narrowly missing the Elite Class round win at Townsville last year.
“There’s still unfinished work here in Townsville. We won the first two races here last year and then I made a silly mistake in the last race which took me out of the points and placed us second for the round, so it will be great to get the win and finish the job,” said Smollen.
“I was particularly happy with qualifying. I had a pretty sketchy practice day yesterday, albeit on poor rubber. We made some changes this morning and put my head back where it needed to be and found ourselves at the head of the field.
“There was plenty of pressure put on me in the race by Duvashen. Obviously I would have liked to be focusing more on tagging onto the fast guys, but he was running at a similar pace and it could have gone either way. It was a close race.”
James Koundouris and the Elite Class’s Friday pace-setter Max Twigg finished 11th and 12th, respectively, from Michael Loccisano, Stephen Grove, Paul Kelly, Tony Walls and Carrera Cup newcomer Martin Wagg in 17th.
Marc Cini and James Bergmuller failed to finish after a late-race incident while Renee Gracie’s race ended prematurely after experiencing electrical issues.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will hold the final two races of the Townsville round on Sunday, with Race 3 to be broadcast live on the Seven Network.
Sunday July 07, 2013
10:35am Race 2 14 laps
1:20pm Race 3 14 laps
Carrera Cup – Race 3 (live)
Date: Sunday July 07, 2013
Channel: Seven (Bris/Syd), 7mate (Melb/Adel/Per)