Craig Baird has handed the Mercedes-AMG GT3 its first-ever win as the Scott Taylor Motorsport driver claimed the opening races at Round 2 of the CAMS Australian GT Championship in Melbourne.
Baird drove a measured race to cross the line in second place behind Christopher Mies as the category made its long awaited return to Albert Park – having last supported the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in 2010.
Mies, who had started on pole, led the race from lights to flag before adjusted time saw the JAMEC PEM Audi R8 LMS relegated to second place.
A unique format this weekend sees cars race without compulsory pit stop times, with post-race ‘pit stop’ times applied post-race.
Enjoying a shorter pit stop time than Mies, Baird therefore claimed the race despite crossing the line in second place.
“Chris drove a fantastic race, he deserved the win,” Baird said. “I just didn’t have the pace to pass him.
“I had to push really hard,” acknowledged Mies. “I had nothing more to give. Craig was probably faster than me; I was right on the limit.”
Jonathon Webb, who’d joined Mies on the front row, faded as the race wore on to eventually cross the line tenth.
That became 18th once the order had been corrected, the Melbourne McLaren racer admitting he simply lacked the pace to run with the leaders.
Marcus Marshall ended the race third while former F1 racer and Ferrari test-driver Andrea Montermini gave Vicious Rumour Racing a strong result with the all-new Ferrari 488 GT3 in fourth place.
George Miedecke waged door-to-door battle with Webb over what would become fifth place.
The pair swapped positions a number of times before the Miedecke Motor Group Aston Martin Vantage GT3 gained the upper hand, going on to take eighth at the flag.
Series debutante Alex Rullo was one of only two retirements from the race.
The teenager narrowly avoided contact with Tony Walls in the closing stages after putting in a stellar performance to that point.
The off saw Rullo lightly brush the wall, the youngster choosing to park the Performance West Lamborghini Gallardo FLII as a precaution.
Steve Richards was the other retirement after the BMW Team SRM driver sustained damage to the rear of the M6 GT3 at the first corner.
Deciding caution was the better part of valour, Richards stopped the car at the end of the first lap as the team look ahead to the remainder of the weekend.
Out from, Baird claimed a new lap record to go with his race win, the Scott Taylor Motorsport driver shattering the previous mark set by Tony Quinn in an Aston Martin in 2009.
The new mark, a 1:55.1134 proved more than 4.7 seconds faster than Quinn’s 2009 effort, with 16 others also managing to beat the previous best.
Victory for Baird will see Scott Taylor start from pole tomorrow as lead drivers hand their cars over to their team-mates for Race 2
Set for an 11:25 am local start, and with rain forecast for much of the morning, it looks set to be an even more electrifying encounter.