Baird dom­i­nates to win High­lands 101

Motor Equipment News - - MOTORSPORT -

Craig Baird and co-driver Michael Al­mond dom­i­nated the fi­nal round of the Aus­tralian En­durance Cham­pi­onship to win the High­lands 101 at High­lands Mo­tor­sport Park in Cen­tral Otago on Sun­day Novem­ber 13

The win rounded off a re­mark­able weekend for the vet­eran Kiwi racer who also claimed a first and se­cond in Satur­day’s Aus­tralian GT sprint races.

“We had a good start, a good strat­egy and the team worked re­ally well to­gether,” said Baird. “The main thing for me is we picked up a cou­ple of tro­phies for (team owner) Scott Tay­lor. It’s just fan­tas­tic for him after in­jur­ing his leg at the Gold Coast.”

Tay­lor was in­volved in a nasty crash at the end of Oc­to­ber which ruled him out of both the Hamp­ton Downs and High­lands 101 meet­ings.

It was also a mem­o­rable weekend for Baird’s co-driver Michael Al­mond, who picked up the drive in the Mercedes AMG just over a week be­fore the Cromwell race.

“Michael drove fan­tas­tic all weekend,” said Baird from the podium. “He came into a re­ally high pres­sure sit­u­a­tion driv­ing some­one else’s car.”

Greg Mur­phy chased Baird home over the last 30 laps but never got close enough to mount a real chal­lenge in Tony Quinn’s As­ton Martin Van­tage GT3. It was the first time a Quinn hasn’t fin­ished on the top of the podium after Tony’s back-to-back wins in 2013 (with Fabian Coulthard) and 2014 (Garth Tan­der) were fol­lowed up by Klark Quinn’s win last year with Shane Van Gis­ber­gen.

It was a dom­i­nant per­for­mance from start to fin­ish by Baird and Al­mond. Nathan An­tunes and Ge­orge Miedecke headed the field in the unique 250m Le Mans sprint to start the race and their co­drivers Greg Tay­lor and An­drew Miedecke were the early pace­set­ters.

The Baird and Al­mond pair­ing lost a few places in the foot race to give up the pole po­si­tion ad­van­tage they’d earned in the morn­ing qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion but within four laps Baird had moved from fourth to first.

The for­mer NZ Grand Prix win­ner and Porsche GT3 Cup se­ries ti­tle holder main­tained the blis­ter­ing pace he showed in the Mercedes AMG in Satur­day’s Aus­tralian GT sprint races to lap a full se­cond or two quicker than the rest of the field in the early stages, open­ing up a 21-se­cond gap on Tay­lor in se­cond, with trans-Tas­man duo Peter Hack­ett and Do­minic Storey’s Mercedes AMG in third and Mor­com and Denyer in fourth.

Mean­while there was no re­peat of Satur­day’s form for Klark Quinn and co-driver Mike Whid­dett who started from the back of the field after a punc­ture in the warm up lap de­layed their start.

After win­ning his third Aus­tralian GT ti­tle the day be­fore, Quinn spent sev­eral laps in the early stages of the race with an over­heat­ing engine, put­ting paid to his and Mike Whid­dett’s chances of driv­ing them­selves back into con­tention and the McLaren was back in the pits and their race over by Lap 43.

Story by Robert Tighe. Pho­tos by John Mor­ris and Euan Cameron.

Craig Baird flies to vic­tory in the High­lands 101.

Klark Quinn won a ti­tle on Satur­day but was an early dnf in Sun­day’s High­lands 101. Like father like son. Pit stop for the An­drew and Ge­orge Miedecke As­ton Martin.

Win­ners are grin­ners. Baird (right) and co-driver Michael Al­mond.

The co-driv­ers sprint to tag their car to start the race.

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