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Baird and Gleason the winners at Marina Bay

19 September 2015, Singapore - Craig Baird showed his mastery of Marina Bay and Kevin Gleason made his own piece of Singapore history in the opening support races at the 2015 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX on Saturday.

New Zealander Baird claimed the first race win of the weekend in typical fashion – by running away at the front of the Porsche Carrera Cup field in round 11 of the 2015 series.

Baird, 45, took full advantage of pole position and shrugged off a number of incidents and accidents to take victory for Singapore-based Clearwater Racing, 1.596 seconds ahead of Team Absolute Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung with teenager Nico Menzel third, a further half-second behind, in his PICC Team StarChase entry.

‘Normal story,’ said a delighted Baird after taking a big chunk out of the series lead held by his compatriot Chris van der Drift. ‘Got pole, good start – and the car was better than I was!’

The 12-lap race was cut to 10 after two aborted starts, the second of which earned a drive-through penalty for Zhen Zhang in the Team Porsche Holding car, but an unfazed Baird was away cleanly, leaving Menzel, Rodolfo Avila in the Team Jebsen car and Tung to scrap over second place.

Van der Drift’s Kamlung Racing entry started fifth after traffic problems in qualifying and the New Zealander could not force his way any higher up the field, which means Baird has reduced the gap to just 10 points going into Sunday’s round 12.

Singapore’s Yuey Tan, aiming to take the Class B title for non-professional drivers, was on course to increase his points lead in the other Team Jebsen car but suffered engine failure two laps from the end, allowing Singapore-based Egidio Perfetti in the Spark Motorsports Porsche to claim class honours.

The other local favourites enjoyed mixed fortunes. Ro Skyangel brought his Team Yonda entry home in seventh place but Ringo Chong’s race ended prematurely when his Team Kangshun car was tagged at the rear by Jinlong Bao’s Zheng Tong Auto machine.

The Porsches are ever-presents in Singapore, but the multi-make TCR International Series is making its maiden visit to Marina Bay – and 29-year-old American Kevin Gleason became the first winner in the class under the Singapore lights, his West Coast Racing Honda exploiting a late mistake by Stefano Comini’s Target Competition SEAT Leon to pounce for his second win of the season.

“It was a tough race and a nice second win for me, no doubt,” said Gleason. “I took a good start but had a lot of pressure from Oriola and Gianni (Morbidelli) in the early laps. Then, my pace improved throughout the laps and when Stefano lifted off I was able to take the lead. In the closing laps though, when his car was back to OK, I was under great pressure again. Definitely, a tough race…’

A rueful Comini said: “I am a little bit disappointed for sure, but happy with my performance and the valuable championship points. Everything was going perfectly and I was feeling very comfortable with the car until some electronic problem with the gearbox arose.’

Third was Gianni Morbidelli in the second West Coast entry, fighting off a stirring race-long challenge from Pepe Oriola’s Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT to edge ahead of the Spaniard in the overall standings again.

A long way behind, another historic moment unfolded: the debut of the new Subaru STi TCR. After an epic journey from Italy that included being off-loaded from one flight, going via Seoul to Kuala Lumpur and a final leg by road, the Top Run team and driver Luca Rangoni can point to an epic achievement of their own in finishing 15th without the benefit of a single practice lap.