Porsche specialist Craig Baird was unbeatable in Saturday’s opening two races of Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia at the iconic Mount Panorama.
Baird gained pole position in the final lap of the morning qualifying session before pulling away from the field at the start of the opening race to eventually claim a convincing Race 1 victory from Jonny Reid and Steven Richards, who was able to keep Guest Driver Jeroen Bleekemolen at bay after a lengthy late-race battle.
Alex Davison finished fifth in the opening race from Daniel Gaunt, Elite Class race winner Shane Smollen – who qualified an impressive fourth – Tony Bates, Max Twigg, James Koundouris and Troy Wilson in 11th in his first Carrera Cup race.
Baird again gained the lead in the second race; however Bleekemolen had progressed into second by the opening corner. While the Dutchman challenged for the lead in the opening laps, Baird soon gained a gap on the field to claim his second win from two races.
Bleekemolen finished in second ahead of a closely fought battle between Reid, Davison and Richards, finishing ahead of Gaunt, Nick Foster, Ant Pedersen, Elite Class race winner Twigg and Wilson in 10th.
Two race wins was a perfect result for Baird, who was pleased to have the edge over his ultra-competitive Carrera Cup rivals.
“It was a mega day. Jeroen probably had more speed than me in the opening one or two laps in Race 2 so had to put my head down and pushed on,” said Baird, who was pleased with his performance against a world-class competitor, Bleekemolen.
“I certainly wanted to perform well here after last year’s Porsche Carrera World Cup, where I thought I let everyone down because I wasn’t really competitive there – and it’s the old story: people perform well in their own sand pit. We’ve known each other for quite a few years and worked closely with him being in the Guest Car. Through my relationship with Porsche, I gave him tyre pressures, set up and video – everything I had. It proves how good a driver he is because he’s doing exactly the same lap times. Credit to him, but it’s nice to get a one-two.”
While Baird was the star of the day, Sydneysider Smollen also impressed after qualifying fourth – the best qualifying result of an Elite Class driver this year – and finished seventh in the opening race; however he failed to finish the second race after experiencing powertrain issues.
“I was on song straight away in qualifying and had a really good, controllable car in the wet and posted a time good enough to put me on the second row, which was fantastic,” said Smollen.
“It was amazing starting the opening race with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Alex Davison in my mirrors with Craig Baird and Jonny Reid on the row ahead. I was happy to take the Elite Class win in the opening race; I was out there by myself for most of the race. I didn’t think I was going to catch the Professional drivers and didn’t want to get caught from behind.”
Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia will hold its final race of the weekend on Sunday at 8:35am – the final race of the weekend before the iconic 1000 km V8 Supercar event.