Craig Baird is a step closer to the BNT V8s Championship after racing the penultimate round at the weekend
Queensland-based Kiwi driver Baird drove his United Video Falcon to the overall round win after tussling with rising star Tim Edgell (Auckland), who took out his first V8 race victory in his Chesters Falcon.
Third overall for the round was former points leader John McIntyre (Nelson) whose Prime Explosives Falcon battled with Baird and current champion Kayne Scott (Hamilton in his Fujitsu Heat Pumps Falcon. The other driver still technically in the championship hunt is Christchurch’s Eddie Bell (Independent Fisheries Falcon).
At the start of Race 1 the cars bunched up while braking with several nose to tails resulting in damage to some cars, including Bell and Chris Pither. Angus Fogg managed to move up a place ahead of McIntyre before pulling out of the race on Lap 2 after a driveshaft component failure.
Meanwhile, Edgell and Scott opened a good lead by Lap 3 and dictated the race from there. Baird was soon up to 4th and began putting pressure on McIntyre.
Lap 9 saw Baird make a move under braking to take over the 3rd place he was to defend to the finish, behind the front two of Edgell and Scott who had opened a sizable lead.
The front four were followed home by Andy Knight, Andy Booth, John Penny, Bell, Haydyn Mackenzie and Clark Proctor. Andrew Anderson dropped to the back to finish 22nd owing to a bent front suspension ball joint following contact from another car.
Race 2 saw some of the closest ever racing. While Edgell established a comfortable lead from pole, Baird, McIntyre and Scott dualled it out the whole race.
A safety car period was required on Lap 7 when Christina Orr and David Hopper came into contact on the final turn resulting in Orr’s car making heavy contact with the tyre wall. On the restart Edgell battled to head off both Baird and McIntyre into Turn 1 and open a small gap. A few laps later Edgell locked a wheel causing a flat spot on a front tyre just before Bell’s car fractured an oil line distributing oil on the outside of Turn 1.
When Edgell arrived, his car slid wide into the oil allowing Baird to get alongside and muscle his way into the lead he was to hold until the finish. Edgell was then troubled by a vibration caused by his damaged front tyre. Knight and Booth were next across the line battling to the end ahead of Penny, Anderson, Proctor and Mackenzie. Fogg’s withdrew on the final lap with a blown front tyre while lying 7th.
The weekend finale was a comparably sedate affair as the top four pace setters wound their way up the order.
Fogg dominated from pole position to win ahead of Bell, Matt Lockwood, McIntyre, Baird, Knight, Scott, Edgell, Anderson and Simon Richards. Baird was aggressive in the opening laps to move to the front while McIntyre, Edgell and Scott took a more tactical option, but McIntyre managed to overhaul Baird by the end of the race.
The next and final round of the BNT V8s Championship will take place at Taupo Motorsport Park over the weekend of 20 and 21 March.