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Craig Baird F5000 Outing – Raceway at Ruapuna Park

Baird and the five other drivers,  Lindsay O'Donnell (Begg FM5), and Tony Richards, Ian Clements, Sefton Gibb  and Russell Greer (all Lola T332s)They say that if you want a job done give it to a busy man and at MotorSport New Zealand’s annual Tier 1 meeting at Christchurch’s Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park on Sunday that man was defending Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion and NZV8s category front-runner Craig Baird.

Though one of the only drivers at the meeting to be contesting not one but two championship classes, the 21-time New Zealand champion made the time to join MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series regulars Ian Clements, Tony Richards, Sefton Gibb, Russell Greer and Lindsay O’Donnell a special lunch break demonstration run to promote the upcoming Lady Wigram Trophy round of the 2009/10 MSC series at the Christchurch track.

Baird expressed interest in ‘having a drive in one of those 5000s’ on Friday and when local Lola T430 owner David Abbott found out he was quick to offer the Hamilton-born but now Queensland, Australia-based driver his car for the lunchtime demo run on Sunday.

And what did Baird think?

“I loved it,” he said. “Absolutely loved it. As I said to David, I didn’t want to go out there and drive it fast or anything, I just wanted to drive one to get a feel for it – tick the box if you like.”

Though Baird is best known these days as a tin-top specialist the now 39-year-old pioneered the well-worn current route from karts to single-seaters, winning the New Zealand Formula Ford championship as a 16-year-old before graduating to the Formula Pacific class here and eventually the Formula 3000 one in the UK.

New Zealand racing driver Craig Baird trying David Abbott's MSC  F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Lola T430

So how did the Abbott Lola T430 compare?

“I was thinking about the last time I drove a single-seater,” he said, “but, you know, what it reminded me of more was my old TraNZam. It had the same sort of power, the same sort of big tyres and not much downforce. Obviously its got more (downforce) than a Porsche or an NZV8 but power-wise it’s closer to the TranZam. There’s a lot of it but, you know, it’s nice power, not nasty power, power you can really enjoy.”

Sunday’s meeting at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park was the last major one at the Christchurch circuit this year with a full field of the crowd-pleasing MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series cars headlining the first major meeting of the New Year at the circuit, the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting, over the January 09-10 weekend.

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[Source: New Zealand F5000 Assoc.; photo credit: Fast Company/Alex Mitchell]