Craig Baird recently had a taste of the speedway scene when he took Ian (Jack Jack) Easton’s sprint-car for introductory laps at Harrisville Speedway near the Ohakea Airforce base
Leaping at the opportunity extended to Baird and midget champion Graham Standring by 40-year racing veteran Easton, the test has baited Baird to further the offer by seeking to run in a competitive outing.
“They’ve got four wheels and a steering wheel – that’s about the only parallel to any other car I’ve driven before,” said the 38-year-old Queensland based Kiwi after his first laps in the winged 11P methanol powered racer.
Excited yet apprehensive about the opportunity, he emerged from the car having experienced a new aspect synonymous with speedway – mud and dust.
“But I guess like anything new – they take a bit of getting used to. It feels like it walks all over the straight, so you’ve got to put opposite lock on down the straight if you come off the throttle - they are just so fine to drive.”
“They’ve got mega power – that’s the best part of it. The other thing is you can’t see the front wheels to know how sideways you are – you’re just heading down a straight for the end wall. But I’m told the faster you go the straighter the car gets.”
Following his introduction, Baird says a day behind the wheel would be essential to get full feel: “I’d love to give them a go in a race. At the moment I’m driving it like a motocross bike – hanging on for grim life. But once you’ve clicked with the car it’d be a real thrill to get in to a race with others.”
With a successful racing career in midgets – the wingless and smaller version of the sprintcar, Graham Standring has taken Baird’s interest and baited him to run at Auckland’s Western Springs Speedway.
“You just get in there and stand on it as hard as hard as you can – well that’s what it appears the quick guys do – they just don’t lift off it,” said Baird, echoing advice offered to him in the build-up to the test session.
“I’ve now got a solid opportunity from Danny Lendich to race a midget – and that’s thanks to Ian (Easton) and Brent Harris for being able to test at the brilliant Harrisville venue. But first I’ll be doing plenty of practise so I can be competitive and keep it out off the wall,” concluded Baird of his next challenge in a career that totals 24 national titles.
Keen to accept an offer to run in the New Zealand series, Baird is currently overlaying calendars to see if he can fit in a season on the dirt.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but if I put my mind to it and we come up with some sponsors I’m sure we’ll do it.”