Current leader of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA) series for 2010, Craig Baird returns to the Shanghai International Circuit in China for what was calendared to be the championship finale for the international one-make car race series.
The 40-year-old Gold Coast based Kiwi has a slender four point lead in the standings after eight races and returns to where the championship season started in April with his Auckland based Triple X Motorsport crew.
Currently embroiled in a battle of the ethics and legality at altering a structured championship, Baird says the turmoil won’t be on the team’s mind as they seek to extend their advantage.
“We’re there to win a championship and thrilled to be leading given the quality of competition,” said Baird ahead of this weekend’s two races. “We’ve enjoyed the catch-up battle that eventually got us to the front. Now we’re wondering what lies ahead when off-track they (the series organisers) can change what we’ve been aiming for.”
At 5.5 kilometres in length, the venue used by the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix was a tough induction for the driver with 25 championship titles under his belt. Of those, Baird is the only driver in the series to have won more than one Porsche title outside the series (Australia and New Zealand. Now he has a hold on a third.
“It’d be the ultimate to wrap up the title this weekend – and setting the bar to a new level really epitomises how New Zealanders perform and achieve on the world stage. But the there are two races we need to master first. Shanghai has a very long run to the first turn so the start is crucial – the race and championship hangs on that. Equally, qualifying is important in this series, with the staggered off-set grid formation you always start behind not alongside the car in front. Starting from the front sure makes racing easier – you can control the pace and save your tyres compared to those who are trying to catch you up,” he added.
Returning to the heat and humidity of Shanghai, the team also have long days to test their mettle: “On Saturday the bus leaves for the circuit at 5:30am. We have a practise session starting at 7:40am with qualifying at 12:20 in the afternoon.” Baird’s first 11-lap race in the VnC Cocktails Porsche GT3 997 RS starts at 3:10pm (8:10pm NZST).
Sunday starts at 8:30am with the second 11-lap race at 11:05am (4:05pm NZST).
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2010 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship points (after round 8 of 10) – top five
1, Craig Baird, NZL, 120
2, Christian Menzel, GER, 116
3, Marchy Lee, HKG, 106
4, Mok Weng Sun, SIN, 96
5, Rodolfo Avila, MAC, 79