PORSCHE CHAMPION RETURNS TO FERRARI FOR 12 HOUR VICTORY QUESTCRAIG BAIRD is now a four-time Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Champion – but he is determined to add a second Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour victory to his credit driving for the German marquee’s arch-rival brand; Ferrari.
The Queensland-based New Zealander will return to the mountain with Clearwater Racing next February, as the Asian GT Championship winning team seek to go two places better than their superb third-place effort in the race this year. Baird, co-driving with works Ferrari driver Matt Griffin and team owner Mok Weng Sung, finished a surprise third in the 2012 race, behind the factory-supported Audi R8LMS that won, and the Erebus Racing Mercedes SLS AMG that scored second. Their Ferrari 458 GT3 was the only Ferrari to finish the race, the speedy Maranello Motorsport example setting lap records before succumbing to mechanical dramas early in the race.
The podium result was something of a surprise for the team – their focus always on the win on their 2013 return.
“Weng (team owner, Mok Weng Sung) is always very conservative with his predictions but Matt Griffin and I were pretty confident that we would be capable of finishing on the podium. Clearwater doesn’t do things by halves and once we had Weng up to a level where he was comfortable, we knew we would contend for a decent result. It was a tough race with the weather conditions changing all the time and that made things difficult, but we got there. It’s a great team to work with and I can’t wait to come back. I think we’re a chance.” Baird said.
Accustomed to jumping between different types of cars, Baird says the Ferrari 458 is a strong contender for the annual 12-hour race, though not ideally suited to the epic 6.213km circuit.
“The Ferrari actually struggles for torque on the climb up the hill, It just doesn’t have the torque as cars like the Lambo, but overall it’s a really good car. I think our car will be better and for sure they will have done some development since this year’s race. We have great support from Ferrari and Matt Griffin is a known commodity here now – he’s a great driver. It’s just easier going back a second year.” Baird explains
Well-known for his exploits behind the wheel of the German Porsche brand, Baird says he has no problems switching brands for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour each year.
Baird’s race win in 2007 came at the wheel of a BMW Production Car, prior to the introduction of GT cars in the race.
“If there was a works-supported Porsche in the race, I’d be in it, for sure, but when you’re in a position that it’s one of our biggest races of the year and they don’t have a car to go in, they aren’t going to put restraints on where you can drive, which is great.” Baird said.
Baird’s record-breaking year in Carrera Cup saw him take 10 race wins and wrap up the title with a round to go – something he hopes leads into more 12-hour style races around the world.
“It’s been one of the best seasons I have ever had in Carrera Cup, and racing with the quality of opposition, like Jeroen Bleekemolen, has led to a bit of interest from overseas, which is very flattering. I’d love to do more events like the 12 Hour here and abroad." the now four-time champion said.
The Clearwater Racing Ferrari is one of two currently entered – lap record holding outfit Maranello Motorsport set to return with their speedy 458.
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