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Title contenders top times in Bathurst practicePorsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia, Round 6, Practice 1, Thursday

Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia has returned to Mount Panorama in style this weekend, with the front three runners in the championship chase at the top of the times in opening practice.

Posting the quickest time of the sole Thursday practice session was current points leader Craig Baird, whose time of 2:11.5043 placed him ahead of his closest combatants in the title chase – Alex Davison and Jonny Reid.

Baird, who will also race alongside IRWIN Racing’s Lee Holdsworth in Sunday’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, was content with his form; however the New Zealander believes the pace of everyone will lift during the event.

“It’s always a nice way to start the weekend; I’m actually surprised to be at the top of the time sheets because I made a few little errors and never really got a clean lap in. It takes a little while to get your eye in here; it’s a confidence place so the more laps you do, the better,” said Baird.

“The field will close up later in the weekend. We’ll just do as we normally do and see where we end up.”

Fourth in the time sheets was Dutch driver and sports car specialist Jeroen Bleekemolen, who is excited to return to Mount Panorama in a familiar race car.

“It’s great to be back here at Bathurst, especially in the GT3 Cup car – the car I probably know best. There’s more pace to come, for sure, but that’s the case for everyone else as well. It’s a great experience and hopefully I can get a little more speed, but this is definitely a good starting point,” said Bleekemolen.

“With the track being so cool, this is definitely one of the better events to race at. The top guys know the track really well in these cars, but hopefully I improve a little bit more in the next practice session and be competitive with them over the weekend.”

Bleekemolen finished the session ahead of Nick Foster, Steven Richards, Daniel Gaunt, debutant Ant Pedersen, Andre Heimgartner and Tony Bates in 10th, who was the quickest Elite Class driver of the session after missing the last round in Townsville when undergoing neck surgery.

“The plan in today’s session was to go out and chip away at the times; not worry about what times we were going to do but just get some confidence in the car as I’ve not been here before in a Porsche,” said Bates.

“Phillip Island was the last round I raced at before the neck operation. The neck is all good now and it’s great to be back in the car.”

Elite Class leader Max Twigg posted the next best time in 11th from James Koundouris, Shane Smollen, Marc Cini, first-time Carrera Cup racer Troy Wilson, Ray Angus, Michael Loccisano and Stephen Grove.

Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia will next be on track at 5:10pm tomorrow for the second practice session of the weekend.