Murphy and Kelly in familiar territory at Bathurst Last year's winning combination of Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly have rocketed to favouritism to repeat of their 2003 Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 heroics after setting a familiar pace in today's first ...
Murphy and Kelly in familiar territory at Bathurst
Last year's winning combination of Greg Murphy and Rick Kelly have rocketed to favouritism to repeat of their 2003 Bob Jane T-Marts 1000 heroics after setting a familiar pace in today's first practice sessions at Mount Panorama.
Murphy, in his K-Mart Commodore, topped the times after a blistering run in the second session, almost matching his times from last year when he totally dominated the event.
Caltex Havoline's Russell Ingall was second quickest with Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife in third. Pre-race favourites Marcos Ambrose and Greg Ritter had a bad day in the Pirtek Falcon, Ambrose hitting the wall in the first session without completing a lap, and then blowing an engine in the second.
But all eyes were on Murphy today after his amazing weekend here last year, and he said that while there was more attention on him and partner Rick Kelly, it made little difference to the Bathurst experience.
"It doesn't matter whether you win or lose here last year, it is always great to get back out there on the circuit," Murphy said. "It (the car) doesn't feel quite as good as last year and we've certainly got a list of things to try tomorrow.
"It is a bit nervous at the moment, and it just doesn't have the balance you need for this race. I had to work a bit harder than last year to get that time, we definitely improved it in the second session, but we still have some gains to be made.
"If we can get the car to feel okay then I'd say we are in front of where we were last year."
He said that while Ambrose had a rough day, it was too early to write him out of contention based on that alone.
"People have done it before from worse situations, and we've seen it too many times from SBR," Murphy said after the final session.
"Marcos has a weakness for this race and it is Ritter. We are confident that we are one of a few that can win this race, and we just need to concentrate on what we have to do."
Ingall said he was happy with his car and that he expects to have a good chance of taking his third Bathurst win after claiming second at Sandown four weeks ago.
"It was pretty hot out of the box, and at the moment the thing is doing it easy," he said. "We weren't out there looking for lap times, and that (2nd) was an absolute bonus."
Co-driver McLean, said he was pleased with his times in the co-drivers only session, and that he was focussed on the tasks given to him by the team.
"The times will come, we're not here to do anything other than that," he said. "I've got a job to do and I will do it well."
Skaife was third fastest overall despite brushing the wall in the first session.
"It was all okay, I just bumped the right hand front wheel on the inside wall, it bounced back onto the tarmac after a bit of a wobble, but no dramas," Skaife said. "We know we've got some gains to be made, and we've just to put our heads down."
Ambrose was the biggest drama of the day, the current championship leader running only nine laps for the day after first bending the axle housing on his Falcon and then blowing the engine.
"Not every day can be a great day, I was a little disappointed with myself for making a blue, but 10 minutes after that I was moving on and thinking about what we had to do. It was a pretty big cost for a small error -- the first session and the first lap, it was like crikey," he said.
"It was a green track and as I went over the bump exiting The Cutting it just got a slide up that wouldn't stop. I was off the power for 2.5 seconds and it didn't feel that hard, but it cost us a whole session.
"I was pleased with out recovery though, at the moment there is more in me than in the car."
There is another 60 minute practice session tomorrow before qualifying starts at 2pm. <pre> Top 10 -- Thursday Combined Times 1. Greg Murphy, Rick Kelly Kmart Commodore 2m08.7906s 2. Russell Ingall, Cameron McLean Caltex SBR Falcon 2m09.4275s 3. Mark Skaife, Todd Kelly HRT Commodore 2m09.5318s 4. Jason Bargwanna, Mark Winterbottom Orrcon Steel Falcon 2m09.6166s 5. John Bowe, Brad Jones OzEmail Falcon 2m09.6323s 6. Jason Bright, Paul Weel PWR Racing Falcon 2m09.6783s 7. Steve Ellery, Luke Youlden SuperCheap Falcon 2m09.7605s 8. Steve Richards, Jim Richards Castrol Perkins Commodore 2m09.8290s 9. Steven Johnson, Warren Luff Shell Helix Falcon 2m09.9378s 10. Craig Lowndes, Glenn Seton CAT FPR Falcon 2m10.0861s