Erebus Motorsport stand-in Craig Baird knows competing at this weekend’s Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint will be a big challenge.
It has been a decade since he was a full-time Supercars driver, though he regularly steers in other categories locally and internationally.
While Baird admitted it took some time to get his head in the game yesterday, he improved between sessions to run just 0.4sec behind David Reynolds, his teammate and the driver he’ll share with during this year’s Pirtek Enduro Cup.
He finished 24th in yesterday’s second session, with a final 15-minute practice at 11.55am local time today before qualifying and 120km of racing.
“They are just so foreign,” Baird said of the Supercars.
“You hop in and seriously, normally you go year to year and do your enduro thing.
“To be honest, as an enduro driver you are not under a huge amount of pressure you sort of jump in and do the lunch thing and don’t have to qualify as long as you have a reasonably good race pace you can get away with it.
“When you front up for a sprint round you have nowhere to hide.”
Baird has stepped in after former full-timer Aaren Russell’s split with Erebus. He has a relationship with Erebus through its GT program and raced enduros with the team with Lee Holdsworth back in 2013 and ‘14.
His aim is to help the team further the Walkinshaw-built Holden Commodores, and it is a bonus to get extra laps ahead of the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
“I’m not trying to sit on the front of the grid, but obviously I’ll do the best job I can.
“Hopefully I’m not last – I wasn’t last (in practice), so those other two blokes should be sacked if they are behind me!”
Baird turned 46 yesterday, as he reacquainted himself with Supercars.
It was his first time in the Erebus Commodore, given he was unavailable for the co-driver session at Winton (which Greg Murphy contested in the #9).
“(Yesterday) was about sort of doing some laps and trying to work out how to get the speed limiter of it,” Baird said.
“I actually really enjoyed it, I thought I might struggle physically in the car, I wasn’t really training that hard.
“It was alright – apart from going back to the gearshift was just a horror, the amount of times I was trying to shift gear but was just talking on the radio on the paddle of the back of the gear stick. I could hear the little bits of laughter coming from the pits they knew every time I'd done it.
“It’s just all those little things. I come from traction control and it’s like cheating – you jump in these and you certainly realise these guys earn their money.”