Craig Baird has dominated the opening practice session for the fifth round of Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia at Bathurst, while Damien Flack was the pace-setter in the Elite Class.
At the wheel of his new-look Porsche GT3 Cup car, Baird finished the opening practice session 2.6 seconds quicker than his nearest rival Michael Patrizi, with Briton Ben Barker the third quickest driver in the session.
Baird will be one of four drivers who will race in both the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and the Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia championship throughout the weekend, and believes his vast experience around the 6.213 km circuit played a large role in his early weekend form.
“Obviously I’ve done 17 Bathursts which makes a difference, especially when you’ve been around here in the wet and you know where you’re going, while there are guys out there who probably haven’t done a lap in the wet,” said Baird, who will also line up alongside Fabian Coulthard in the #61 Bundaberg Racing Commodore for the 1000 km V8 Supercars race.
“It’s a big margin but it’s probably a bit of a false economy because it’s only practice. I know the track; I know it in the dry and I know it in the wet and there are guys pioneering a little bit at the moment. That’s a pretty handy advantage over guys like Daniel Gaunt who, while they have been here before, haven’t raced here in a Porsche.”
Behind Baird, Patrizi and Barker, series leader Jonny Reid finished the session with the fourth quickest time ahead of Steven Richards, 2011 newcomer Tim Leahey, Daniel Gaunt and Elite Class pace-setter Flack.
Flack, who recently raced at the 24-hour Spanish sports car event 24H Barcelona alongside Ray Angus, was happy with his performance but believes he can improve on his practice pace.
“I’m happy with being the fastest in the Elite Class. It’s actually quite surprising as I spent most of the time bedding in the brakes and I didn’t get a chance to really push the car. By the time I was ready to give it a go, the session was over.”
Behind Flack in the practice session times were Matthew Coleman, Jeremy Gray, Shane Smollen, James Koundouris and Max Twigg in 13th.
Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia will hold its second practice session and qualifying tomorrow, with two races on Saturday and one race on Sunday.