Baird and Evans nab V8 wins in dramatic final day in Taupo
Reigning V8 series winner Simon Evans and multiple-time Porsche champion Craig Baird have won races two and three of the 2015–’16 NZ Touring Car Championship series opener, in a chaotic final day of competition at Taupo Motorsport Park.
Evans claimed race two in dominant fashion, claiming a lights-to-flag victory, leading home former NZV8 series champion Angus Fogg to the chequered flag with a comprehensive five-second margin. A consistent Mitch Cunningham completed the podium. The major talking point of the race was a first-lap incident between Australian Bryce Fullwood, Blair McDonald, Nick Ross, Scott Taylor, and Baird — an incident that resulted in the three SuperTourer campaigners retiring to the sidelines in preparation for race two.
The second race was a more unpredictable affair, with the addition of a mandatory pit stop sure to rough up the order. Craig Baird romped home to a 12-second win, as the only car in the race with a full set of brand new Dunlop tyres under its belt, but the battle for second behind him was an unpredictable one.
“It certainly makes up for a shitty race two,” Baird told driven.co.nz.
“It's nice to reward David [John] with a win. He does battle to keep the team running. Part of me feels a bit sorry for him, part of me wants to reward him [...] Some will say that the new tyres will have gave us an advantage, but if you look at the lap speed of the car, we had pace on them as well.”
After starting deep in the field, Simon Evans looked likely to back up his race two win with another podium, but his efforts were thwarted when — with the end of the race in sight— his Smeg Commodore switched off, dropping the team from second to fifth.
But the biggest moment of the race took place in pit lane when Tim Edgell and Fogg took their mandatory pit stops on the same lap. With Fogg's car dropping and the Property Tutors driver emerging in the fast lane, Edgell and his Chester squad joined the fast lane — only to be spun around by Fogg as they approached the pit exit.
“We came into pit lane for our pit stop. We were released and went back into the fast lane and Edgell's guys released his car, and he tried to go in front [of me] basically — and he wasn't quite there, ” explained Fogg.
“The rules are that the car in the fast lane has the right of way, and the merging guys give way. So, what do you do in that situation? We're here to win, so you have to make the most of every opportunity you can take.”
The incident, as well as the situation with Evans, promoted Fogg to second position, where he would stay for the duration of the race
“After the first race we were nowhere and fighting around like a drunken lizard, but thankfully Paul Forgie to help set up the car for me. He made some sensible changes and brought the car back to where it should be,” said Fogg.
Behind him, young Australian Bryce Fullwood came home in third, with Gene Rollinson, Cunningham, and Edgell rounding out the top eight. Behind them were the first of the class two competitors, Brock Cooley leading home Kevin Williams in a thrilling race-within-a-race.
Jason Bargwanna is the surprise points leader, having been consistent all weekend. The series now shifts to Pukekohe in November for round two of the NZ Touring Car Championship.