Defending NZ V8 champion Craig Baird believes this weekend’s 27-28 November second round of the championship season at Ruapuna near Christchurch will be an exciting chance to return to the championship lead for the United Video Racing team
Currently second overall in the standings – one point off the lead, Baird says the 3.33 kilometre circuit always provides exciting racing and is often a turning-point for the seven round championship.
“While it’s very early in the season, when you look at where we were this time last year – we’re already ahead,” said Baird, who has now amassed 25 national championship titles. “Add to that all the past championship winners are behind me. And although we haven’t won any races yet – we’ve proven the car is very fast. So it’s a matter of finishing first and the wins will come – I’m sure of that.”
Favoured by the Gold Coast based Kiwi as a race circuit, he says Ruapuna’s technical nature is something he’s well used to: “You find it’ll sort the men from the boys. You’ve got to think and plan well ahead of each corner. The car balance has to be just right as you switch from a left-hand-turn to a right turn. So handling is very important, as is power – for the long drag down the main straight.”
Although the championship winning United Video Racing team arrive in Christchurch on Thursday to begin setting up, the first chance Baird will get behind the wheel will be late on Friday afternoon for a shakedown session. With a 45 minute test session on Saturday morning to fine-tune the car’s handling, it is the team’s only chance to prepare for the all-important afternoon first race qualifying
“There is a small window of opportunity to check changes we decide on from testing in the first qualifying session, but we have to balance that with making sure we make the top-ten cut.”
The fastest ten cars then have one lap to set a time to decide the race one starting order for the top-tier.
“Like anywhere, qualifying is crucial – it’s almost the first race result. With the high calibre of drivers up front the opportunity for passing is very slim – you’ve got to get your spot right from the start – and that’d be pole in qualifying.”
Racing takes place on Sunday, with a ten-lap race in the morning, followed by a second ten-lap race early in the afternoon. The final 20-lap race grid is decided on the reverse of the aggregate points collected.
“That’s where you’ll see the men and boys. Everyone will go out with best intentions, but many forget what’s at stake – risking their own car and probably the championship of an innocent other. If we’re coming through from the back you see it all and hope you’re not the vent of someone’s frustration because you got past when they make a mistake.”
Located 13 kilometres west of Christchurch city, the Ruapuna circuit is only 24 kilometres north of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake of 4 September. Saved by its river stone base, the track surface did not suffer in the shake that decimated many buildings much further north.
2010/2011 BNT V8s championship points – top four after round one of seven
1, Angus Fogg, Falcon, Auckland, 170
2, Craig Baird, Falcon, Queensland, 169
3, Tim Edgell, Falcon, Auckland, 166
4, John McIntyre, Falcon, Nelson, 150
2010/2011 BNT V8s championship calendar
1 5-7 November 2010 Pukekohe NZIGP Inc
2 26-28 November 2010 Ruapuna Canterbury Car Club Inc
3 14-16 January 2011 Teretonga Southland Sports Car Club Inc
4 21-23 January 2011 Levels South Canterbury Car Club Inc
5 11-13 February 2011 Manfeild Manawatu Car Club Inc
6 11-13 March 2011 Taupo Taupo Car Club
7 15-17 April 2011 Hamilton MotorSport NZ