Bathurst qualifying report

Murphy goes one better and blitzes pole Greg Murphy said yesterday there was a good chance that by the end of today's shootout his fastest ever lap of Bathurst might no longer stand. And today he proved himself right, with one of the most...

Murphy goes one better and blitzes pole

Greg Murphy said yesterday there was a good chance that by the end of today's shootout his fastest ever lap of Bathurst might no longer stand. And today he proved himself right, with one of the most amazing laps ever done at Mount Panorama, a 2m06.8594s lap bettering his mark by more than a second and clinching his first Bathurst pole by more than a second.

Starting alongside Murphy tomorrow will be John Bowe, who was so astounded by Murphy's lap he suggested the Kiwi driver should be knighted. Jim Richards was a surprise third fastest as pole favourites Marcos Ambrose and Mark Skaife faltered in the single lap shootout.

Murphy's time elated the huge 44,553 and left pitlane almost speechless.

"I can't believe the time, I'm just shaking," Murphy said after climbing from his Kmart Commodore. "The car was good and I knew I had to push hard to beat Mark (Skaife) and JB, especially when I heard the roar at the end of pitlane when he had done his lap.

"My lap wasn't perfect, I grabbed first gear at the Dipper instead of third, but I was able to keep some good speed into the Elbow."

He said the grip level of his car on the lap was amazing, and he was able to brake later at most points on the track, and sat on the rev limited for longer than ever before leading into the Skyline.

"I saw the time on the dashboard and had to check with the boys that it was right, and I could tell by Eric's voice that it was right. I've never been so dry in the mouth on one lap before, I had to concentrate so hard on that lap.

"I wasn't going out there to be safe, I was out there to win pole. But I don't imagine it means anything for tomorrow except that we will start from pole."

Murphy said the team's attention will now switch entirely to the race, which he is confident can become his third win in the classic after moving into outright favouritism for the race. He said co-driver Rick Kelly was driving consistently and quick, and would be more than a match for almost anyone in the field.

John Bowe must have thought his 2m07.9556s lap is the shootout would have held, but he said he was just gob smacked by the time but happy to start from second for the second year in a row.

"I think I lost control of my jaw," he said. "I thought I did a pretty reasonable lap, and I would have been annoyed if I had missed by a tenth or two, but not by that much. It is a fantastic effort, pole is normally fought out by 10ths and this is by more than a second on one of the best and most challenging race tracks in the world.

"Nobody even considered a 6 was possible, so now we are just hoping he will come back to us."

Bowe said Jones will start the car, and is hoping for a repeat of his team leader's opening spell from last when he smashed the lap record and led the field for 30 laps.

Jim Richards was a surprise third on the grid as he lines up for his 32nd start, trumping team leader Mark Skaife with 2m08.1466s lap that moved him from seventh on the provisional grid.

"That's the best time I've done all weekend," he said, "and when I saw the time I thought it was pretty reasonable.

"The car is good enough to win, whether we (he and Tony Longhurst) are good enough I don't know."

Garth Tander continued his good run in the Repco Valvoline Cummins Commodore, slotting in the fourth fastest time and targeting a repeat of his Year 2000 win here.

"We are very happy with that, it could have been faster but it is still good," Tander said. "We are just going about our business quietly. Garry hasn't told us yet, but I'll be starting tomorrow."

Fifth on the grid is pre-race favourite Marcos Ambrose, the Championship leader just not showing his usual qualifying advantage over the field, but still confident his Pirtek Havoline Falcon has enough speed to win his first Bathurst. Co-driver Russell Ingall already has two wins.

"It is strange, normally we have such a good qualifying car," Ambrose said. "We've been battling a little this weekend, our lap was solid but compared to Greg's it was pretty poor.

"I'm determined to try and win Bathurst, but this is only my third attempt."

Craig Lowndes was sixth quickest, the lack of power in the FPR CAT Falcon obvious by setting one of the fastest time over the top of the mountain but blitzed down the long straight by more powerful cars. Tomorrow he will share car with Glenn Seton who is yet to win here in 19 starts.

Mark Skaife was down in seventh in the Shootout with a best lap of 2m08.5696s, 3/10th slower than he was in practice an hour earlier. He had no explanation for the missing time, but remains confident for the race.

Steve Johnson and Paul Radisich rounded out the starters in the Shootout, Steve Richards missing his run after co-driver Larry Perkins slammed his car into a wall in the morning practice. Perkins shunt damaged the wall so badly all action on the track was stopped for nearly two hours while it was repaired.

The lead Castrol Perkins Commodore was badly damaged, but Perkins said it was largely cosmetic and would be repaired and 100% by tomorrow morning's 7:15am warm-up session. Perkins also said this was most likely going to be his last Bathurst, the six-time winner saying it was too hard to come here without running the rest of the V8 Supercar series.

"I am feeling for the first time since coming here that I am that the limit is not all that nice. Unless I drive all next year, which is very unlikely, I doubt I'll be driving here again.

"I reckon it will be my last Bathurst, but I had made that decision before the crash."

-avesco-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Garth Tander , Marcos Ambrose , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Jim Richards , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Paul Radisich , John Bowe , Glenn Seton , Tony Longhurst , Larry Perkins , Steve Johnson , Steve Richards