Watching former team-mate Greg Murphy win time and time again in New Zealand taught V8 Supercars star and Motorsport.com columnist Rick Kelly a very important lesson – the right mindset can be unbeatable.
I was fortunate in my early years of the sport to race alongside Greg Murphy, who as we all know is a hero in New Zealand.
‘Murph’ turned up to every track and gave it his best, but there was something special about him when he raced at two tracks in particular – Pukekohe and Bathurst.
Every time he drove at both of those places, you knew you were going to need something better than your A-game if you were to stand a chance of beating him.
With Pukekohe, a lot of it was to do with the fact that it was his home track. He did a fair few laps around there, but I think the trackside crowd, and simply what it meant to him to be racing there, made all of the difference.
In 2003 and ’04 as his team-mate, we would do a lot of Kmart store appearances in Australia and New Zealand, with the NZ gigs tending to be out of control. There were people everywhere, and queues out the door. It was quite amazing.
Even after he left our team for 2005, when I would turn up to an appearance in New Zealand, I would still have a stronger following than I would normally expect… simply because I used to be Murph’s team-mate! He is so popular there that a little bit of it rubbed off.
It was an interesting and exciting time. All told, he wound up winning at Pukekohe nine times from 15 races between 2001 and 2005, some fairly remarkable stats.
What that tells me is that if you turn up to the race track in the right mindset, and you’re hell bent on winning, it can make a massive difference. It’s just not about how good your car is, it’s about how far you're prepared to push yourself to get a result.
It’s a unique time of the year for us. The endurance season has now wrapped up, and I’m glad for our Jack Daniel’s Racing crew that it finished on a high note.
I can now change the seat belts back to my settings without any compromises to accommodate a co-driver, and simply focus on these last three rounds.
Pukekohe has been a track where I have had some success in the past. I made an error last year in qualifying, otherwise we would have been closer to the front. Outside of our podium, I think Pukekohe definitely offers us a big opportunity.
New Zealand is the only international fly away round that we’re doing this year as well, and we get great support from the crowd over there, as well as from the local guys at Nissan.
The preparation for this event has been a bit different to normal, with our crew staying in Queensland for a couple of days to get everything ready for the cars to be flown straight from Brisbane to Auckland.
Fortunately all of the cars made it through the Gold Coast event without major damage, which was nice.
It’s a little bit quiet back at the workshop, but from New Zealand we get them back and prepped for Phillip Island and Sydney Olympic Park.
Simple on paper, but…
I like the track layout at Pukekohe.
It’s got a mix of everything, fast, slow and in between. There’s some pretty decent bumps thrown in, and with the old barriers from the Hamilton circuit, it semi feels like a street circuit.
There are a lot of changes of surface, but it’s an enjoyable old school track. It’s a simple-looking on paper, but it’s anything but simple to get right. And that goes from both an engineering and a driving standpoint.
It’s funny, you can almost draw a parallel with Queensland Raceway – both tracks are a compromise between the different mixes of corners. While Pukekohe's new chicane on the back straight does shorten that cool run into the hairpin, it does make sense from a safety point of view, and it opens up an additional overtaking opportunity.
Pukekohe is the sort of place that the driver can make a difference. If your head is screwed on straight and you’re in the groove, look out…