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‘I ENJOY THE CONCRETE CANYON!’

Baird stars as Porsche and TCR enjoy Singapore spotlight  

18 September 2015, Singapore - A Singapore veteran and a Lion City newcomer starred in the opening support race action ahead of Sunday’s 2015 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

New Zealander Craig Baird kept up his country’s brilliant record in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia category in Singapore by taking pole position for the first of two PCCA races this weekend.

Baird, in his mid-forties now, fired in a superb lap of 2 mins 17.999 secs two-thirds of the way through the half-hour qualifying session to set himself up for a shot at victory in his #12 car entered by Singapore-based Clearwater Racing.

‘I’ve always gone well here,’ said Baird. ‘It’s not a modern track where you can get away with mistakes: it’s an old-school track in a modern setting. You have to be committed, you must know where to put the car. But you mustn’t be too greedy on the kerbs, or the car will bounce – but I landed it nicely everywhere. And I enjoy the concrete canyon!’

Baird’s 30-year-old compatriot Chris van der Drift, who leads by 19 points after a string of seven wins already this season, looked as if he had timed his own qualifying attack to perfection when he set quick times in the first two sectors of the long and challenging Singapore lap.

But the constant danger in street circuit racing – traffic – caught the Kamlung Racing Kiwi out in the final sector and he could finish no better than fifth, leaving teenage sensation Nico Menzel to share the front row with Baird.

Menzel, just 17 and a race-winner in the PICC Team StarChase entry in Malaysia earlier this month, lies third overall as he bids fair to match his father Christian’s own outstanding PCCA record, and finished the session 0.183 of a second behind Baird.

Singapore’s Yuey Tan, on course to take the Class B title for non-professional drivers, took top spot in class in eighth place overall in the Team Jebsen car ahead of Spark Motorsports’ Egidio Perfetti.

Tan, the season’s most consistent Class B performer with five podiums, is 17 points clear of Modena Motorsports’ Wayne Shen and would dearly love to cement his title challenge with a maiden class victory of 2015 on his home track. Singapore’s other entrants, Ro Skyangel and veteran Ringo Chong, qualified in seventh and 14th places respectively.

Earlier on the opening day of track action Singapore welcomed the TCR International Series to Marina Bay for the first time, and it was series leader Pepe Oriola who immediately made his mark on the fledgling class’s new venue.

In contrast to the one-make Porsche category, the increasingly popular TCR series brings together two-litre turbo-charged cars from a range of major manufacturers including SEAT, Volkswagen, Honda and Ford, while Singapore is the place where the exciting Subaru entry is also scheduled to make its competitive debut later in the weekend.

Oriola, in one of the three SEAT Leons campaigned by Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL, topped the opening 25-minute session with a best time of 2  mins 28.706 secs then lowered that to 2:27.223 in the second session at an average speed of 123.852 kilometres per hour.

It was love at first sight for the Spaniard as the production-based Touring Car Racers found their way around the challenging Marina Bay track. “It was very hot, but I loved the track,” said Oriola, 21, who took over at the top of the TCR standings at the last round in Austria. “We changed quite a few things between the first and second session and the car improved much, but I think this is also due to the track getting cleaner and faster.”