Round 12 Â Boost V8 International, Pukekohe NZ 9-11 November, 2001 Race 1 Murphy Wins It, Loses It, Then Wins It Again Saturday, 7.30pm: Greg Murphy was finally declared the winner of a rain shortened race at New Zealand's Pukekohe Raceway...
Round 12 Boost V8 International, Pukekohe NZ
9-11 November, 2001
Murphy Wins It, Loses It, Then Wins It Again
Saturday, 7.30pm: Greg Murphy was finally declared the winner of a rain shortened race at New Zealand's Pukekohe Raceway almost two and a half hours after finish, with blunders by the officials first stripping him of the win, then giving it back when their mistakes were realised.
Murphy looked a clear winner when he had leapt away from pole and left the majority of the field in his wake. When the rain came on lap 27 of the scheduled 36, he led the majority of the field in to the pits for wet weather tyres.
Mark Larkham surprised everyone by staying out on slick tyres, and as a result, he inherited the lead before being overrun during lap 31 and sliding his Ford in to the wall. When officials showed the red flags to stop the race a couple of laps later, Murphy held a commanding lead over Marcos Ambrose, with Mark Skaife in third and the crowd roared their approval that a Kiwi driver had won the race.
The confusion came some minutes later when stewards mistakenly applied the rule that states the result must come from the penultimate lap prior to the red flags being displayed. They declared the race on lap 30, when Larkham was still leading and declared him the race winner.
Murphy had in fact crossed the finish line for lap 33, therefore the stewards should have declared the results from the completion of lap 31, when Larkham was sitting on the wall, looking at his smashed car.
Murphy sat dismayed through a media conference, lamenting his misfortune, with Larkham elated with his luck. Teams gathered for lengthy discussions with race directors to sort out the mess, and when almost all of the 28,746 fans had left the track, Murphy had the winners grin back on.
"It's fantastic. It's just silly it has happened this late in the day and I can't celebrate with my home crowd. It's taken the shine off it actually, but it's the way it should be now," said Murphy.
"The race felt pretty easy today, I was surprised how easy it was. After our first pit stop, I couldn't see anyone for miles. After the rain came, the car was cruising along and the team made all the right calls, but I didn't realise Larkham was on slicks I wouldn't have wanted to be out there on slicks."
Ambrose's efforts for the day were almost lost in the commotion, but his was an eye-catching drive. His second place puts him on the front row for Sunday's second race and right in with a chance to score his first race win in his rookie year.
"It was tricky because I have never been around here and I haven't done much driving in the wet, being based in Queensland where we don't get much rain like this," he said. "I am looking forward to tomorrow and trying to crack it for a win."
To top off an eventful day, Skaife's third placing was enough for him to secure his second consecutive championship, and the fourth of his career, enabling the Holden PR machine to unwrap the celebratory posters and beat their chests in honour of their star's triumph.
"It's just a fantastic feeling. The team and I have worked so hard throughout the year for this and I am really looking forward to going out and enjoying myself in the remaining races. It will also be great to go back to our home track at Sandown to finish the season as champion."
The patriotic crowd also saw the greatest drive of the short life of Team Kiwi, the local Holden outfit that was celebrating their first birthday after debuting in the Shell Series ranks at Bathurst last year. Jason Richards drove the team's lead car into fourth position, easily their best race result in the V8 Supercar category.
Richards earnt the result on merit, overcoming an average start, then avoiding chaos triggered by Craig Lowndes, Jason Bright and Todd Kelly coming together on the opening lap, before matching it with the front runner for the duration.
"This is a birthday present from heaven for the team," said Richards. "Our first year in the Shell Series has been such a steep learning curve for us. I was actually really pleased when the rain came because our slicks were just about chewed up and the car seems to go well in the wet."
Russell Ingall survived for fifth despite getting caught up in several panel crushing incidents, with Tony Longhurst following up his Bathurst triumph with a courageous seventh.
The tight circuit claimed its share of casualties apart from Larkham. Paul Morris also stayed out on slicks and paid the price, slamming his Big Kev Holden into the wall on the main straight. Glenn Seton sustained heavy damage to his Tickford Racing Falcon in the opening lap chaos and limped back to the garage early.
Paul Radisich's Shell Falcon also copped a whack in that drama and he was unable to impress his patriotic fans, battling home in 17th.
Promoters are expecting close to 50,000 fans to flock to the Pukekohe track, south of Auckland, for tomorrow's two race schedule. <pre>
Race 1 Top Ten
1. Greg Murphy Kmart Racing Holden VX 2. Marcos Ambrose Pirtek Racing Ford AU11 3. Mark Skaife Holden Racing Team Holden VX 4. Jason Richards NZ Business / Team Kiwi Racing Holden Vt 5. Russell Ingall Castrol Perkins Racing Holden VX 6. Tony Longhurst Rod Nash Racing Holden VX 7. Garth Tander Valvoline Cummins Race Team Holden VX 8. Todd Kelly Kmart Racing Holden VX 9. Steven Johnson Shell Helix Racing Ford AU 10. Jason Bargwanna Valvoline Cummins Race Team Holden VX
Current Shell Series Points Overall: 1) Skaife - 3138 2) Ingall - 266x 3) Bright - 2539 4) Murphy - 2382 5) Johnson - 2324 6) Kelly - 2139 7) Radisich - 1927 8) Tander - 1889 9) Ellery - 1846 10) S.Richards - 1766 11) Ambrose - 1735 12) T.Longhurst - 1707 14) Perkins - 1667 13) Lowndes - 1653 15) Seton - 1620