Murphy takes Pukekohe to force title decider

Kiwi Greg Murphy dominated the Place Makers International at Pukekohe, New Zealand this weekend and threw down the challenge to series leader Marco Ambrose for the title which will be decided at Eastern Creek. After a dominant performance in...

Kiwi Greg Murphy dominated the Place Makers International at Pukekohe, New Zealand this weekend and threw down the challenge to series leader Marco Ambrose for the title which will be decided at Eastern Creek.

After a dominant performance in the opening two races, the K-Mart driver stamped his authority at his 'home' circuit, which has seen him claim the points for three years running. The only threat to him, apart from the rain on Saturday, came from fellow Holden driver Mark Skaife, who did his championship chances no harm after finishing second twice and winning the final race.

The 90,000 mainly Holden crowd witnessed some spectacular driving by Murphy during Saturdays rain soaked race, which saw Ambrose finish 6th ahead of defending champion Skaife, who spun off the track after an altercation with Max Wilson in the Shell Helix Ford moments after the start. Skaife found himself at the back of the pack and managed to come through the field for a credible result while Ambrose later admitted that he was apprehensive of the conditions. Let's hope the rain doesn't tumble down in a couple of weeks time as the dominant driver throughout the series this year may not walk away with the prize.

Ambrose' team mate Russell Ingall was in the wars and could not reproduce his efforts from Surfers Paradise while fellow Ford drive Mark Noske slammed into wall after spinning at turn two. Overall, it was a weekend that most of the Ford drivers would rather forget.

Fridays practice session saw fellow Kiwi driver Jason Richards involved in a spectacular rollover after skating across the outfield. The Team Dynamik driver walked away with only minor bruising and a large repair bill, the car considered a right off.

Murphy didn't have it all his own way in race two after first dicing with Todd Kelly and then having to contend with the number one Holden Racing Team driver Skaife who hounded him for a handful of laps before passing after a tap at the end of the straight. A dozen laps later Skaife paid the price after he ran wide on Steven Johnson's oil from a blown engine. Murphy regained the lead and didn't look back, with Skaife finishing 2nd ahead of Jason Bright in the Team Brock Commodore, who remained in the lead until his compulsory pit stop.

The Stone Bros pair of Ambrose and Ingall finished 23rd and 26th respectively after they both had unscheduled pit stops after suffering tyre problems, something that plagued them the entire weekend. If there was any consolation, the two finished the round in 10th and 9th position.

Despite Skaife dominating the third race, it wasn't enough to stop Murphy claiming the round, after finishing 3rd behind Jason Bright who's strategy to leave his compulsory pit stop until lap 35 again paid off, and with new tyres he was able to reel in the front runners.

Todd Kelly completed the Holden podium by finishing 3rd over the weekend with Paul Radisich in the Betta Electrical Ford 4th ahead of Jason Bargwanna who is improving with each outing in the Orrcon Ford.

Going into this round Ambrose was 120 points clear of Murphy who has now reduced the gap to a mere 24 points as the Championship heads back to New South Wales for the final round of the series. Can the Kiwi continue his form or will the Devil Racer bounce back. Regardless of the outcome, only one man will be left standing.

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Series Supercars
Drivers Steven Johnson , Max Wilson , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Mark Skaife , Jason Richards , Paul Radisich , Mark Noske , Todd Kelly