Murphy Becomes Bathurst's Fastest Ever Man An amazing qualifying session at Bathurst this afternoon has finished with Kmart Racing's Greg Murphy topping the times and setting track's fastest ever lap. An honour held by Mark Skaife for a minute...
Murphy Becomes Bathurst's Fastest Ever Man
An amazing qualifying session at Bathurst this afternoon has finished with Kmart Racing's Greg Murphy topping the times and setting track's fastest ever lap. An honour held by Mark Skaife for a minute after light rain washed the track clean and gave the drivers the best conditions they have ever enjoyed here.
Murphy, Skaife and John Bowe fired off a series of super quick laps after the track dried, Murphy and Skaife swapping the top time twice as Bowe jumped into the picture. Championship leader Marcos Ambrose was back in fourth spot, with a revitalised Garth Tander hard on his tail on fifth.
But all eyes were on Murphy who has so far dominated this speedfest.
"I might only be the fastest driver for only 24 hours, so I'd better savour it," Murphy said with an ear-to-ear grin. "To do a 7 here is pretty special.
"The track was near perfect after that little shower and that is what it is all about. Driving across the top of the Mountain at 11/10ths, it doesn't get much better than that. I did an 8 dead and the car felt good so I went again, and thank god I did.
"I didn't know how close the others were because the team didn't tell me over the radio, all they said was that I was P1 and I thought it would be by half a second or so because of the time. I was shocked the see them so close."
Murphy said his and the team's attentions would now be split between more development work on the Kmart Commodore for the race, while refocussing for tomorrow afternoon's shootout for his first pole at Bathurst.
His main rival in the shootout already has four poles here, and showed enough resolve to lift himself from 10th before the rain to second at the end of the session after recording the first ever lap in the 2m07s bracket.
"It was a weird session," Skaife said. "Early on we all arrived at the top of the hill and there was sand everywhere, and then the next lap there was a Kmart sideways in the sand at the Chase, and then we had to drive across the top with the wipers on.
"But there is nothing more rewarding than blazing around here like that.
"At the end we didn't have any time to spare so we just had to press on, it was a fantastic battle."
Turning his attention the shootout tomorrow, Skaife said pole probably doesn't matter that much in terms of winnings the race, with less than one in every four pole winners taking the honours on Sunday, but that it does matter to be near the front.
"Although we say that qualifying is not that important, that session proves it is."
Third quickest was John Bowe in the OzEmail Falcon, a conservative run at the end also having him below the previous fastest ever lap and with a little in store for tomorrow. At one stage on his quick lap, the computer in his team estimated his lap at 2m07.5s, but he back off in the esses and dropped to 2m07.9945s.
"I was just a little bit on the safe side in the esses," he said, "it is in my make-up to be cautious at times like that. But I'm sure there is a better lap in it, but we do have trouble getting temperature into the tyre for the one lap shootouts.
"This place rewards commitment like nowhere else. Most tracks you can drive like a crazed man and it is worth 2/10ths, here it can be a second and a half."
Marcos Ambrose was also like Skaife at risk of falling out of the top 10 late in the session, and he said a slightly conservative run at the end was designed to ensure he had a start in the shootout rather top the times.
"We weren't too worried about where we were yesterday, but we were a little worried during that session when we were P9 and looking for speed. Then I did 2 safe laps to make sure we got into the top 10... I would love to have had a third lap for a real go.
"It is going to take a pretty serious effort to get pole off any of the guys in front of me, but we'll be giving it a go."
Winner of the 2000 race here, Garth Tander said he was very happy with where he was with the Repco Cummins Valvoline Commodore he will most likely share with regular teammate Jamie Whincup.
"The car itself is fantastic, it was good to get a time in early and then we made a few changes and the car was faster," Tander said. "To be honest I didn't do the car justice and made a few small errors.
"But it was great to be out there thrashing the guts out of the car."
Two-time winner Steve Richards was sixth quickest, two slots ahead of his father, Jim, in the shootout for his record breaking 32nd start in the race. Craig Lowndes split the pair in his CAT Falcon, with Paul Radisich and Steve Johnson rounding out the starters in the shootout.
Perhaps the unluckiest man in the field was Steve Ellery, the runner-up at the Sandown 500 was sitting third when the rain first fell, but dropped out of the shootout when Jim Richards put his quick time in on the chequered flag.
Today has been largely incident free with a couple of lucky escapes for Cameron McLean (in the sand at the Chase) and David Besnard (damaging a radiator in the sand at the Esses), with only Andy McElrea and Jan Magnussen bending cars.
<pre> Top 10 - Qualifying 1 51 K-Mart Racing Team Greg Murphy Holden Commodore VY 2:07.9503 2 1 Holden Racing Team Mark Skaife Holden Commodore VY 2:07.9900 3 21 OzEmail Racing Team John Bowe Ford Falcon BA 2:07.9945 4 4 Pirtek Racing Marcos Ambrose Ford Falcon BA 2:08.2685 5 34 Garry Rogers Motorsport Garth Tander Holden Commodore VY 2:08.4145 6 11 Castrol Perkins Racing Team Steven Richards Holden Commodore VY 2:08.4695 7 6 Ford Performance Racing Craig Lowndes Ford Falcon BA 2:08.5267 8 2 Holden Racing Team Jim Richards Holden Commodore VY 2:08.6662 9 65 Betta Electrical Paul Radisich Ford Falcon BA 2:08.6923 10 17 Shell Helix Racing Steven Johnson Ford Falcon BA 2:08.7724