Baird holds off Murphy to win

New Zealand driver Craig Baird, in a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, maintains his lead in the final laps...
New Zealand driver Craig Baird, in a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, maintains his lead in the final laps of the Highlands 101 endurance race yesterday. Photo: Christine O'Connor.
Racing great Craig Baird was the victor in the battle of the Kiwis at the Highlands 101 endurance race yesterday. He and co-driver Michael Almond clinched the title of the 101-lap endurance race at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.

Baird led the pack of 23 for most of the race in a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 with another homegrown driver, Greg Murphy, nipping at his tyres.

Murphy was sharing driving responsibilities with track owner Tony Quinn in an Aston Martin Vantage GT.Baird said it meant a lot to win the race for the first time, especially after almost winning two years ago before running out of fuel.

"I’ve raced Murph since I was a teenager, so I knew [he] wouldn’t give up. So I just kept pushing on."

The crash of another vehicle meant the safety car came out in the final laps which slowed down the track.

"It’s just what you want at the wrong time," he said.

The pair also claimed first and second in the two races of the Australian GT sprint championships at the track the day before.

Tens of thousands of people witnessed the action.
Tens of thousands of people witnessed the action.
Murphy said both he and Baird were "pushing pretty hard".

"I think he would have been able to maintain it for as long as he needed to."

The event was a "a lot of fun", and he and Quinn were in a good position for most of the race, Murphy said.

"Unfortunately, we weren’t close enough."

The lap record was broken by Auckland driver Dominic Storey with a time of 1min 31.674sec.

Australian father-son pairing Andrew and George Miedecke  claimed third place in their Aston Martin Vantage.

Event director Mike Sentch  said it was "the sort of thing you can’t script".

"In a race like this you’ve got drama, you’ve got excitment, you’ve got cars catching, you’ve got cars failing."

There were about nine crashes overall, which caused some delays on Saturday.

"They always say that Highlands bites, and it certainly does. There’s a lot of concrete. The drivers were pushing really hard.

"They’re all fine. A lot of it is just damage to the cars. The cars are very, very safe."

Alexandra man Johnny Waldron won the class 1 section of the supporting one-hour race in his souped-up Nissan Skyline.

He has raced the event since its inception with a different car, placing third last year and second the year before.

"I think it’s great that a bunch of local guys from Alexandra can win it."

He and his team built the car over the past three months especially for the event.

"We’re really stoked.

"We came over to do our best and just had a combination of a good team, a good strategy and a well-prepared car."

The overall Australian GT Championship was won on Saturday for the third time by Australian Klark Quinn, son of Tony Quinn.

A collision meant he was unable to finish the first race, but third in the second race was enough to clinch he title.

Unfortunately, a leak put him and Aucklander Mike Whiddett seriously behind in the endurance event yesterday, but they powered on to complete 36 laps.

Australians Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom claimed first overall in the 2016 Australian Endurance series.

The winner of the 1-hour series was Ian Hayr, of Hawera.

The Radical Series was won by Australian Peter Paddon.

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