Mike Baker loves a challenge, so despite winning a national motor-racing title, he has got his sights set even higher for next season.
The Picton businessman and race-car driver took out the 2008-09 New Zealand Bridgestone Porsche tier-two series title, raced over seven rounds in the North Island, and the NZ Porsche A-class championship.
But next season he is keen to step up to the faster and even more powerful tier-one division.
Baker’s 1993 Porsche 964-911 Cup car is a genuine classic, having won the German Grand Prix in 1994, but he is on the lookout for another.
Sponsorship will decide if Baker races tier one and already TV3 has offered to get in behind him. He is also appreciative of the great support he has had from local businesses Russell’s Paint and Panel and Gregory Engineering, without which he said it would be very difficult to compete.
By winning the tier-two series, he said it was a little easier to attract sponsors and he was unsure yet whether he will lease or buy another car to compete in the premier tier-one class, which includes the New Zealand V8s and GT 3 Porsches. The Porsche race cars can be worth anything from $100,000 to $300,000.
Baker feels he is ready to take the next step, having clocked 27,000 race kilometres in his current Porsche.
“Tier-one racing is faster and more expensive.You can’t just jump in these cars and race. You’ll kill yourself or someone else if you do. You need racing experience. I always had this (racing tier one) in sight.”
Keeping costs down is imperative in motor racing, he said, and being a mechanic and virtually running the race car himself most of the time not only helps cut costs but also gives a feel for how the car is running.
He said he applied the same principles to motor racing as he did to business.
“If you do a good job and you are professional about what you do and work hard, you are generally successful.”
Reaching speeds of close to 250kmh in his current Porsche, there is always an element of danger, but Baker said: “I trust my car. I believe in it. The faster you go, the sharper you have to be. You drive instinctively. When you have a really good race you don’t even feel as though you’ve gone fast.”
Baker is no stranger to danger, having worked in various parts of the world as a deep-sea diver for oil companies, diving to depths of up to 220 metres maintaining and fixing equipment.
He also passes on his extensive driving knowledge to others as a chief instructor for driver training for the NZ Porsche Club.
Starting racing as a nine-year-old in TQ midget cars, he moved on to karts and rally cars. For many years he has been mechanic for his talented motocross-racing son, Seadon Baker, who raced professionally for the Kawasaki team in Europe.
Seadon also raced the world junior motocross event in Austria and in 2003 finished third in the British Youth championship.
Life is very much a partnership for Mike with his wife of 33 years, Donna.
The couple have two successful businesses in Picton, Commercial Diving Consultants and N-Viro mooring systems, which specialises in marine-farm work and floating jetties.
“She’s been my No1 supporter. She loves motorsport. I’m at the coal face at work. Donna runs the two businesses. It’s a team effort in lots of ways.”
If attitude has anything to do with it, Baker’s transition to tier-one racing should be a successful one.
“I’ve got a can-do attitude. Get out there and have a go.”