Champion duo Craig Baird and Max Twigg have survived an eventful opening race of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am round at Phillip Island to take victory as several title fighters failed to finish.
Baird and Twigg, who between them have won the past three Professional Class and Elite Class titles respectively, performed a faultless race and were leading in the closing stages when the safety car was called. The race finished under safety car conditions allowing the duo to cruise to a strong start to the Porsche Pro-Am.
“Max and the team did a great job today; we had a nice clean pitstop which put us in a good position straight after the safety car. Once everyone had pitted we were third with good car speed which allowed us to take the win,” said Baird.
“We’ve now come out of that race with a good bag of points so now we can move on and get into the season.”
The race was dominated early by Shae Davies and TAG Heuer Pole Position Award recipient Ryan Simpson, teamed with Nick Foster, though the field was bunched together after a safety car period on Lap 7 to retrieve the Michael Almond/John Karytinos Porsche from the run off area.
The field was reduced by three cars when a multi-car accident occurred at Turn 4 on the restart, eliminating series leader Warren Luff.
The race of front-runners Shae Davies and Adam Gowans ended shortly after when the latter hit the barrier, causing race-ending damage.
As the field preceded with its compulsory driver changes, V8 Supercar drivers Nick Percat and Scott McLaughlin provided one of the highlights of the race with a multi-lap bumper-to-bumper battle for the lead.
The V8 racers soon swapped driving duties with their Elite Class counterparts Shane Smollen and Damien Flack, who soon after the compulsory pit stop came together, ending the race for both drivers and the pursuing Nick Foster, who was placed well for a potential victory.
By this stage Stephen Grove was leading the race after taking his Porsche’s reigns from his co-driver McLaughlin, though Baird and Power, who raced with James Koundouris, were in close pursuit.
Baird took the lead and Power jumped to second when Superbike star Troy Bayliss hit the barrier, calling the safety car to the circuit, which would ultimately lead the field past the chequered flag to finish the race.
Baird was pleased with his victory, as was series rookie Power, who recorded his highest outright race finish.
“James (Koundouris) did a brilliant job in the first stint to keep the car out of trouble, we then had a really good driver change and continued from there. In all honest our result today was from the misfortune of some others though we’re not far off being able to do it off our own merits,” said Power.
Third placed Grove was the highest finisher of the regular Elite Class drivers and was ecstatic with his team’s strong performance.
“I’m rapt with that result; to be racing with guys with the calibre of Baird was a great experience,” said Grove.
“This has been a lot of hard work and you go through a lot of effort to do it so I’m absolutely stoked with the Elite Class race win.”
James Bergmuller and Dale Wood finished fourth from Nick McBride/Rod Jane, Renee Gracie/Tim Miles, Brenton Ramsay/Jason Bright, Tony Walls/David Reynolds, Ash Samadi/Jonny Reid and 10th placed Almond/Karytinos.
While failing to finish, Luff retains the championship lead from Richards and Foster while Baird moves to fourth with only 73 points separating him from the series lead.
The second 60-minute race of the Porsche Pro-Am at Phillip Island will be held on Sunday morning, which can be viewed via live streaming at the Shannons Australian Motor Racing Nationals website at www.thenationals.com.au.
Sunday May 25, 2014
9:25am Warm up (10 minutes)
10:45am Race 2 (60 minutes)