Motorsport: Porsche whiz-bang Baird in command

By Eric Thompson

Top driver says it's all about consistency and teamwork

Craig Baird out front during the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide, round one of the Porsche Carrera Cup. Photo / Edge Photographics
Craig Baird out front during the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide, round one of the Porsche Carrera Cup. Photo / Edge Photographics

At the opening round of the 2013 V8 Supercars series, the huge crowd was focusing its attention on the category's new cars. For the first time fans were able to witness the Car Of The Future being used in anger on the streets of Adelaide for the Clipsal 500.

Adding to the interest was the introduction of Mercedes AMG and Nissan into the mix to go up against traditional rivals Holden and Ford.

The three Erebus Motorsport V8 Mercs and the four Kelly Brothers Racing Altimas never threatened at the front of the field as both teams are still finding their feet with the new cars.

If the new cars weren't enough there was the return of New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen to the fray after a short sabbatical.

The break must have done him a power of good as he qualified on pole for both races, and was fighting for a podium in race one until mechanical trouble forced him to park the car up.

His new team, Tekno Autosports, must be doing something right because the car looked racy all weekend and in race two on Sunday afternoon he motored away to take his third career win.

While all the attention was focused on the V8s, a few people might have missed something quite special in other categories accomplished by another Kiwi, Craig Baird. He was at his masterful best, crossing the line first five times from five races over the weekend.

One of his wins was downgraded to a third after he was pinged for a technical foul having marginally jumped the start.

He may not have come to grips with the big bangers in the V8 category but give him almost anything else and he'll end up standing on top of the podium. We know he's one of the best Porsche drivers in the world, if not the very best, and is highly valued by the factory.

Baird has been in many endurance races throughout the world in GT cars and at the weekend he was in the Erebus SLM AMG GT3 Mercedes for two races.

It was soon abundantly obvious that he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in that class as well.

Winning both those races was no mean feat, as he had to hold former champion Klark Quinn and former Formula One racer Christian Klien at bay.

In what was panning out to be a milestone weekend, Baird ticked off his 50th Porsche Carrera Cup win, hit 145 race wins in all categories to go with his 10 Porsche championships.

"It's all about consistency," he said. "It's the same car, the same tyres and the same team. When your environment is the same every year and when you have the same bunch of guys who know exactly how I want the car set up, it makes it a lot easier to go out and do well.

"I've got a small team with just Karl Baston [chief engineer and Jim Richard's former engineer] and Matt Walton [chief mechanic] who do a fantastic job."

Most in the Porsche field have pedigree when it comes to racing but Baird always seems to be able to get the better of them. Experience is the key and knowing when to lunge, hold back or give someone a bit of room.

Baird is always able to bring his A game to a race meeting, which accounts for a lot of his consistency. If he can't win he'll settle for the best finish and bring the car home in one piece.

"What's probably happened over the past five or so years is that if second is what it is on the day I'll take the second rather than risk a DNF.

"Yes, it's nice to have race wins. You need to win races to get a championship, but you also need a high completion rate.

"You'll get guys looking for their first race win and end up crashing.

"I've won a few and am now looking for the best possible result for me and the team and the most points I can get."

Don't get Baird wrong. He'll be going for the win every time he belts up, but if it's a marginal call these days he'll pull out of it and wait for another opportunity. And it's that thinking approach to racing which has his dance card full these days.

"I've got about 30 weekends racing this year." he said. "Obviously I'm racing the Porsche, I've the AMG car now, Supercars endurance rounds. I also race in Asia, Spa 24 Hour, Dubai 24 Hour, Bathurst 12 Hour, Sepang and hopefully the Nurburgring 24 Hour."

Most certainly a man in demand.

- NZ Herald

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