Erebus weighs up driver options

Craig Baird aboard the #4 Holden during practice

Craig Baird aboard the #4 Holden during practice. pic: Matthew Paul Photography

Erebus Motorsport boss Barry Ryan says his squad will use the mid-season break to work on its driver line-up for the remainder of the season.

Enduro driver Craig Baird has stepped into the team’s #4 entry this weekend in place of Aaren Russell, suiting up for his first solo Supercars event start in a decade.

The Kiwi has publicly ruled out the prospect of continuing as the lead driver through the endurance races, confirming on Friday that he will still team up with David Reynolds as the co-driver in car #9.

Baird ended the two practice sessions at Queensland Raceway 24th in the order after sampling new soft tyres for the first time in the late afternoon.

“I’m not putting myself in a position to hang myself completely,” laughed Baird when asked of continuing as the lead driver for the enduros.

Both Baird and Ryan admit that the 46-year-old could remain in the car for the next sprint event at Sydney Motorsport Park, although no decision has yet been made.

The mid-season shake-up has left Erebus with few obvious candidates for the drive as it strives to give respectable results to new primary sponsor Hungry Jack’s.

The burger giant has stepped up its support of the squad for the weekend in a move that is hoped will be extended for future races.

Dunlop Series runner Shae Davies is already confirmed to be part of the car’s endurance line-up, but would face a tough task to be competitive if thrust into the role of primary driver.

“We’ve just got to get through this weekend and use the break before Sydney to work out what we’re going to do,” Ryan told Speedcafe.com.

“We’ve got to work out what’s going to be best for the team and our sponsors.

“We can put someone in the car with money, but that’s not what we want to do.

“We want a professional driver, which is why Craig is in the car this weekend.”

Amid the shake-up, Erebus drafted Taz Douglas into Reynolds’ car for the co-driver practice session yesterday.

Running in both the Dunlop and Kumho classes this year and with a host of enduro experience under his belt, Douglas appears well placed to slot in for the three long distance events.

“We knew he had no links to another team and clearly he’s a good driver,” explained Ryan of the move to run Douglas, who is also in the running for a seat in Eggleston Motorsport’s mooted Bathurst wildcard.

“He could potentially be in car #4 for the enduros if he doesn’t have something else.

“He went out, did consistent times and gave good feedback. That’s what it was about.”

Baird had meanwhile been frustrated by the fact that he had to sit out yesterday’s co-driver session due to his temporary reclassification as a primary driver.

“I was quite horrified by it,” he said of missing out on what would have been his first laps aboard Reynolds’ Holden.

“I thought there’s no disadvantage to the other teams to let me go out and just find where the buttons are.

“What I was more worried about was going out in the main session and getting in people’s road.

“(But) to be perfectly honest I felt quite comfortable in the car by the end (of the day).

“I was 0.4s off Dave. In V8 terms that’s a lot but I think after being out of the saddle as long as I’ve been it’s not too bad.”

Reynolds’ car continues to sport minor Plus Fitness backing this weekend despite the sponsor’s deal with the Russells for the #4 entry having come to an end.

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