HAIRD NOT A TORTOISE AT THE HALFWAY STAGE
National Hot Rod star goes into 2017 as the man to beat. By Matt James
Chris Haird is sitting pretty on top of the National Hot Rod English points standings going into the mid-season break.
Seven rounds have been completed and Haird, who is aiming for his sixth National points crown, has a handy 51-point buffer over Billy Wood. But there is more to it than that.
After a tempestuous Best in Britain meeting at Wimbledon, a non-points round in November, Wood was in hot water. He was deemed culpable for a crash (for which he later apologised), and he was banned for 10 meetings, with six suspended pending good behaviour.
That means Wood won’t be back on the national points trail until Bank Holiday Monday, May 1, 2017, at Hednesford. There will only be three rounds after that before the end of the contest and the build up to the all-important World Final in July.
“Sure, Billy’s ban means that I have a bit of breathing space, but I am going to need it,” says Haird. “I am building up a brand new car before the start of the year.
“I have had the new chassis in the workshop for a year but I simply haven’t had time to put it together until now. Unlike some people these days, I do all the work on the car myself, which means it is hard to find time to prepare a new racer – it is late nights in the garage for me.”
Haird estimates that his current machine, which he has been using for seven seasons, is 20kg overweight. He will be able to get back to the limit with the new car.
“I am always experimenting with new things on the car – but when you put something new on, you can sometimes add weight,” he adds. “That’s why my current car is overweight. We will be able to start again with a new car.
“There are also a number of new things I want to try with suspension and set-up. I will be able to try them all with a new car. But, the flip side of that is that it will probably need a bit of time to perfect it. I don’t have the time to go testing over the winter so, for me, all my experimenting will be done at the opening meetings. With Billy not around, I will have time to get the car to the point I want it to be at without any real pressure.”
Pressure is something that Haird admits he rarely feels. He has claimed most of the major spoils in National Hot Rods in his career and is known by his rivals as one of the cleanest and most respected competitors out there. He is happy being the hunted, or even the hunter.
His results so far this season have been the model of consistency. He has been in the top three finishers in five of the seven finals held over the opening half of the 2016-2017 campaign, and that has been a tough ask in what has been a torrid part-year.
“It is about being lucky,” he says modestly. “It is about making sure you are in the right place at the right time. There have been some sticky situations this year with drivers going for gaps that they really should back out of. But you soon learn who is like that and who isn’t, and you pick your battles.
“That is the calling card of National Hot Rods at the moment, and everyone is so competitive that there are no slow drivers out there. To pass, you have to work really hard and that shows in the racing.”
It goes without saying how good Haird is at his craft, able to race inches apart from others on the circuit without making contact: a skill that others have yet to fully master.
But he says there is another reason he is known as the cleanest driver out there. “I simply don’t have the time to bolt things back together if it all goes wrong,” says Haird. “It would cause me real trouble, so I have to be careful.”
And that will be right at the front of his mind with brand new kit underneath him. Even so, the others will have to push hard to knock the Suffolk man from the top of the tree.