STM Mercedes targets 12 Hour win

CRAIG BAIRD and Michael Almond stormed to victory in the Highlands 101 on the weekend – and now the Scott Taylor Motorsport team has designs on winning the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, too.

Despite sitting on the sidelines at the annual season-ending New Zealand event, while recovering from leg injuries sustained in a crash on the Gold Coast in October, Scott Taylor confirmed to that the team would field an all-pro squad for February’s Bathurst classic.

Taylor is set to return to the drivers seat alongside Baird for the 2017 Australian GT Championship but is willing to step aside for Bathurst.

“..for the 12 Hour we’re going to try and put together an entry that can win the race outright,” Taylor said.

“I’m in negotiations with drivers that will ensure we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”

Taylor’s AMG GT3 is run by Erebus Motorsport, who won the 12-Hour in 2013 with their SLS AMG GT3.

While Baird and Almond won the 101 race, McLaren pair Nathan Morcom and Grant Denyer had a more stressful day as they limped home to claim the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship.

The result capped off a remarkable year for McLaren, backing up their Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour win achieved in February earlier this year.

Topping the standings heading into the race, an overheating issue on the McLaren saw the car fall into limp mode midway through the 101-lap affair. Morcom and Denyer then nursed the car to the flag, holding on to eighth place to secure the title.

For Bathurst-boy Denyer, the result marked his first championship since he won a state go-karting championship in 1997.

“The car was in limp mode all day and we were two seconds a lap off the racing pace,” said Denyer.

“We were a shot duck and all we were doing was try to get it to the finish. We did it and it’s bloody amazing!”

Baird and Almond combined to claim pole position before Baird raced off into an early lead before handing the car over to Almond at the first round of stops – the Adelaide driver subsequently extending his lead during his stint. Baird then held off fellow Kiwi hero Greg Murphy in the race to the flag to grab the win.

The victory came two years after Baird lost victory in the same event, almost in sight of the flag when the Erebus run Mercedes he then shared with Richard Muscat ran out of fuel on the final lap.

“It’s nice to be able to win this one for Erebus,” Baird beamed post-race.

“We had a good start, a good strategy and the team worked really well together. The main thing for me is we picked up a couple of trophies for (team owner) Scott Taylor. It’s just fantastic for him after injuring his leg at the Gold Coast.”

In second place was Murphy and Tony Quinn, the Aston Martin Vantage demonstrating enormous pace in the hands of both drivers.

Quinn started the race before handing the car over to Murphy after 55 laps, the veteran racer then setting about chasing down the leading Mercedes.

Though he closed the gap to just a handful of seconds, race leader Baird was able to lift his own pace and react to see the two cars split by 3.2-seconds at the flag.

The all-Miedecke Aston Martin of father-and-son combination Andrew and George rounded out the podium in a strong fight back from the team following a crash which had ruled them out of the CAMS Australian GT Championship on Saturday.

The Miedecke Stone Group entry proved a contender throughout, qualifying well to start third with Andrew Miedecke behind the wheel before son George took over for the run home.

Baird and Almond’s victory made them the fourth different winners from four races in the Endurance title, capping off a strong weekend that also saw them win the final round of the Australian GT Championship as well. Meanwhile, Klark Quinn held out the field to secure his third GT title driving his McLaren 650S.

PHOTO: Erebus Motorsport