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Saturday, May 25, 2024


UPON returning from the United Kingdom, Craig Baird wasted absolutely no time making his mark on the Supercars Championship scene.

In 1999, he combined with Jason Bright to be cruising to victory in the Queensland 500 before being cruelly robbed by a mechanical issue.

When Bright headed Stateside the following year to compete in Indy Lights, Baird was elevated to Stone Brothers Racing’s #4 Pirtek seat.

By the end of his maiden round as a solo Supercars driver, he was already a race winner, remarkably clinching the second of two races at the Phillip Island season-opener.

Across 28 laps, Baird charged from ninth on the grid to lead home Garth Tander by more than four seconds.

But results thereafter were hard to come by; indeed he never again finished a main game race inside the top three in a career that spanned through to the 2016 Gold Coast 600.

The downward spiral was such that Baird’s two-year SBR deal was cut in half and the driver and team parted ways at the end of 2000.

So, how did it all go so wrong?

The former British Touring Car Championship steerer gave an honest account of the situation on Part 2 of his V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco episode released today.

“I brought my engineer from South Africa, Paul Ceprnich (now owner of PACE Innovations), who without doubt is the most intelligent bloke I have ever met in my life,” Baird reflected.

“If I could ever have an engineer work on my car, he would be the one still today that I would try to get.

“(After Phillip Island) we left there thinking, ‘how easy is this? We are on’.

“And then between the two of us, we reinvented the wheel: we put things in the car, we changed dampers, we did this, we tried to turn it into a bit of a two-litre because he was my engineer in South Africa.

“And he was right, but we just needed three years to make it right, and he was going to outengineer anyone else in the pit lane, and he still will today.

“But it didn’t fit well with Jimmy and Ross (Stone), so the end of that year, I get another one of those phone calls (to move on).

Baird’s Phillip Island heroics draw cheers from the SBR crew. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

“He knew where he was going to go, but he just needed more time, and we both paid the price and we didn’t come back in ’01. It was pretty simple.”

Generally speaking, Baird felt his own aggressive driving style was not well suited to a Supercar that preferred smoother inputs.

Regardless, he had no ill-feeling towards the Stones.

“I felt I had let them down,” he confessed.

“In those days they had had their houses on the line for me to race a car and I didn’t deliver for them.”

In the episode Baird also touches on his subsequent moves, his ultra-successful stint in Porsche Carrera Cup, and his approach to his modern-day role as Supercars’ Driving Standards Advisor.

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