Veteran Kiwi racer Craig Baird will swap his seat in the control tower at Bathurst for a drive in a GT car at this weekend's Hampton Downs 500 where he comes up against Bathurst winner Steven Richards.
Baird, who is the Driving Standards Advisor for Supercars, will team up with Scott Taylor in the Mercedes AMG GT3 in the Australian Endurance Championship decider and he's already shown some pace in the car this season, setting a new lap record for the category at Albert Park earlier this year.
"When you set a lap record and beat a driver like Giancarlo Fisichella [former Formula 1 driver] you're probably doing your job okay because he's been on the podium in Melbourne in the Formula 1 Grand Prix," Baird said. "He's a factory driver for Ferrari so I knew I had to bring my A game.
"I'm 48 now but I never get behind the wheel of a car thinking that anyone is going to knock me off. I still want to win every race I drive in."
Baird has been out of fulltime racing for a number of years now but took up the role policing driving standards in Supercars last year. That role put him in the spotlight in the championship-deciding decision he was forced to make involving countryman Scott McLaughlin on the streets of Newcastle last November.
He is one of the most successful drivers in Australasia and boasts more New Zealand championships than anyone else and was best placed to make a judgement call that ultimately saw Jamie Whincup capture the title.
Baird still gets his racing fix in the ever-popular GT format where professionals and amateurs race together in late model sports cars.
"The cars are just so good and they're much easier to drive than what I grew up racing," Baird said. "Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I don't know. I'm getting older so it's probably a good thing. When I was younger as you moved from category to category and car to car you had to adjust your driving style. Now it can feel like a video game sometimes.
"I'm a smarter driver now than when I was younger but do I qualify a car as well as I did when I was 21? Absolutely not. Do I take the risks that I did when I was 21? Absolutely not. Is my completion rate better now that it was when I was 21? Guaranteed. And it needs to be. The Aussie GT cars are expensive and you'll get a pretty decent invoice if you start tearing them apart.
"I'm very fortunate to have raced cars since I was five-years-old and I'm happy to consider any opportunities that come my way. I'm still capable of getting results and I'm looking forward to having a hit-out at Hampton Downs. I think it's an amazing track. It was a good track when it was just the short circuit but the full international circuit is a big improvement."
This weekend will be the final time the Australian GT Championship visits Hampton Downs.