Murph regains 'King Kiwi' crown
19/4/2005 14:37 (Press Release) -
Bathurst champion Greg Murphy got his championship challenge off the ground by dominating this weekend’s PlaceMakers V8 International at Pukekohe Park Raceway, near Auckland.
Murphy swept to victory in all three races of the second round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series, notching up his fourth overall success at his home race in five years.
Much to the delight of the large partisan crowd totaling 88,000 for the weekend, the Melbourne-based New Zealander was unstoppable in his Super Cheap Auto Racing Holden Commodore, easily fending off the Stone Bros Racing Ford Falcons of Russell Ingall and reigning V8 champion Marcos Ambrose.
Murphy’s remarkable return to form from his disappointing start to the season in Melbourne and Adelaide last month shot him 15 places up the championship ladder to fifth place.
But a gritty performance by Ambrose, who overcame incidents, accidents and an uncharacteristic lack of pacesetting speed, got him onto the podium and retained his lead in the title points race.
He is atop the standings with 366 points, 44 clear of Ingall (322) – whose consistency this weekend lifted him four spots up the order – and 87 ahead of Murphy’s solid-scoring SCAR teammate Paul Weel (279), who was eighth overall.
Craig Lowndes, who won his first pole position in four years in yesterday’s Top 10 Shoot Out, is fourth in the standings with 277 points despite not finishing today’s third race. Murphy is next with 273 points as a result of his cleansweep, which was a fitting finale for V8 racing at Pukekohe, which is due to be replaced by a proposed street race in Wellington from next year.
Sunday’s third and final race was interrupted by a spectacular two-car crash triggered by a sprinkling of rain on the 32nd of the scheduled 50 laps.
Gold Coast-based Kiwi Craig Baird and Melbourne’s Paul Dumbrell collided at around 220 km/h at the start of the main straight, sending both cannoning into the trackside safety barriers.
The crunching collision happened because Baird moved his WPS Racing Falcon right to keep out of the way of another car returning to the tarmac from an off-track excursion, sending him across the bow of Dumbrell’s Castrol Commodore.
Baird was turned around in the tangle and his car careered backwards into a safety fence, ripping the back off it and ricocheting it across the track into the guardrailing on the other side.
Amid that drama, Dumbrell speared into the barrier on the other side of the main straight and also rebounded across the circuit before coming to a steaming halt against the opposite fence.
Both drivers emerged unharmed from the wreckage, which forced officials to red flag the race. It was restarted after a delay of half an hour and the race was completed over 16 laps – for a shortened total of 47 laps – on a wet-to-drying track.
Murphy began his domination by winning Saturday’s opening 32-lapper from fourth on the grid after a first-corner tangle compromised Ambrose and sent pole-sitter Lowndes spinning back down the field.
Ambrose also later clashed with Steve Richards, losing further ground.
He won from Ingall, HRT’s Mark Skaife, Lowndes’ Triple Eight Racing teammate Steve Ellery, Ambrose and Kiwi veteran Paul Radisich, who has found a new lease of life with his switch from Triple Eight/Ford to Team Kiwi Racing’s Commodore.
In Sunday’s first 50-lapper, Ingall stormed away at the start to briefly head Murphy, who soon stormed to the front and cruised to the flag ahead of Ingall, Ambrose, Skaife, Lowndes and Radisich.
Murphy completed his hat-trick with a start-to-finish runaway, again from Ingall, Ambrose and Skaife, with Radisch moving up to fifth after Lowndes’ Falcon failed to refire for the restart.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” Murphy beamed. “We came here confident. We’re in a much better [championship] position now, but Marcos still has pretty good lead and we have a lot of work to do.”
Commented Ambrose, who came off second best from a repeat first-corner coming together with Lowndes in the last race: “I’m just stoked with the result after the weekend we had. It was one of the toughest weekends we’ve ever had from my side.
“We never gave up and, somehow, we managed to salvage third overall. When you have a bad weekend and still do okay, it augers well [for his title defence].”
The next round of the V8 Supercar Championship is at Barbagallo Raceway, near Perth, from May 6-8.
By Mark Fogarty
Release Date: 18/04/2005