Na­tional Hot Rod star goes into 2017 as the man to beat. By Matt James

Motor Sport News - - Interview: Chris Haird - By­mat­t­james And quote MN1216MP for print ac­cess.

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.

Haird has been su­per con­sis­tent this sea­son to top the points

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