Queensland-based Kiwi racing driver Craig Baird (United Video Falcon) has taken the points lead of the 2009/10 BNT V8s Championship at the Timaru International Motor Raceway on the weekend
Baird dominated to win two races and finish 9th in the final race to take top points for the weekend.
Christchurch driver Eddie Bell (Independent Fisheries Falcon) came 2nd for the round after scoring two 3rd places and a 7th while Auckland’s Tim Edgell (Chesters Falcon) was 3rd overall with two 2nd places and a 15th. Bell has propelled himself into 2nd overall in the points leaving Nelson’s beleaguered John McIntyre (Talley’s Falcon) in 3rd after a horror weekend where he damaged his car beyond repair for the day.
As the cars formed on the dummy grid for Race 1 (12 laps), light rain began to fall leaving teams with a tough choice as to whether or not to change onto wet weather tyres. Front row qualifier Tim Edgell and second row qualifier Craig Baird made the choice to change but did not join the formation laps in time and were therefore made to start the race at the rear from the pit lane.
As the cars tip-toed over the start line and entered the first corner it was obvious wet tyres were the way to go as firstly Andy Knight and then pole sitter Angus Fogg spun off on Turns 1 and 2 respectively but worse was to come. As the leader, John McIntyre, entered the front straight his car simply slid off the track and spun into the wall causing major damage and setting off a chain reaction. Andy Booth and Chris Pither were both sandwiched into the wall while Kayne Scott and Eddie Bell both spun to avoid the chaos ahead.
The red flag was immediately shown bringing the race to a halt therefore allowing drivers to call into the pits and change onto wet tyres. As a result, when the cars lined up for the restart, the drivers who originally started on wet tyres were to lead the field for the rolling start. The restart saw Edgell jump to an early lead to fight off initial advances from Baird but Lap 11 saw Baird apply irresistible pressure entering Turn 1 causing Edgell to slip off and lose momentum allowing the Queenslander through. Baird opened out a small lead to win from Edgell who just managed to hold off Bell at the line. A five second gap saw an elated Dale Williams in 4th followed by Paul Manuell, local Timaru driver John Hepburn, John Penny, Andy Knight, Darryn Henderson and Haydn Mackenzie.
Scott, Fogg and Booth finished 15th, 16th and 17th respectively doing their points chase no good at all. The sad news came after the race when McIntyre announced his car was too damaged to complete the weekend and he would be using a leased “hot laps” car from Haydn Mackenzie to salvage some points from the round.
Race 2 (12 laps) was a more orderly affair as Baird led away from pole position to open a gap to Edgell who settled into 2nd after applying initial pressure. McIntyre and Hopper started from the pit lane but Johnny Mac’s race was to last just one lap before fuel starvation under throttle halted his progress. On Turn 1, Andy Knight was sent spinning after contact from behind which saw Darryn Henderson relegated after a 50 second penalty was later applied.
Williams was having his best run by holding down 3rd position but his car was still handling badly and therefore holding up a train of cars headed by Bell. Bell eventually sneaked past on Lap 7 after Williams locked up a wheel under braking allowing Bell to chase after the race leaders. Meanwhile, Simon Richards and Kayne Scott endured a major moment when their cars touched entering the back straight forcing both cars onto the grass. Scott was furious and Richards was forced into the pits with overheating owing to grass filling his radiator scoop.
Baird eventually crossed the line untroubled with Edgell 2nd and Bell 3rd while Williams held onto 4th ahead of a jubilant Hepburn who was experiencing his best ever weekend of BNT V8s racing. He was followed home by Manuell, Ross, Fogg, Scott and Booth who passed Anderson on the finish line as the latter suffered a disconnected spark plug lead.
As the cars warmed up for the reverse grid Race 3 over 22 laps, the heavy drizzle re-appeared but this time officials declared it a wet race allowing teams additional time to change onto wet weather tyres. Compared to Race 1, drivers were remarkably well behaved considering the rain soaked conditions. The only major incident occurred on the first lap when Hepburn nudged Fogg into a spin causing Fogg to hit Manuell. Hepburn continued on to receive a drive through penalty while the other two were eliminated from the race.
However, there was no stopping Clark Proctor who started from pole position and simply dominated the race to win by three seconds from Andrew Anderson, Andy Booth, Chris Pither, and Andy Knight all of whom were involved in some furious dicing. The remainder of the top ten was Kayne Scott, Eddie Bell, Haydn Mackenzie, Craig Baird and Jon Whelan. John McIntyre stopped mid-race with a broken throttle cable and was listed as a non-finisher.
The next round of the BNT V8s Championship will take place at Manfeild Park in Feilding over the weekend of 13 and 14 February.