Pukekohe race report

Triple treat for Murphy. Greg Murphy has confirmed his position alongside the All Blacks as a Kiwi sporting hero today, winning his third New Zealand round of the V8 Supercar Championship round at Pukekohe. Murphy's win brought the record crowd...

Triple treat for Murphy.

Greg Murphy has confirmed his position alongside the All Blacks as a Kiwi sporting hero today, winning his third New Zealand round of the V8 Supercar Championship round at Pukekohe. Murphy's win brought the record crowd to its feet after the race, as he closed the Championship gap to leader Marcos Ambrose to a slender 24 points with one round remaining.

Second this weekend was Mark Skaife, the reigning Champion recovering well from a spin yesterday to win the final race for the weekend and jump ahead of teammate Todd Kelly who ended the weekend in third.

Murphy said after the race he couldn't believe he had three-peated in New Zealand, and is now looking forward to fight out the Championship in three week's time.

"I just don't believe it, it is bizarre," he said shaking his head. "I talked myself into thinking it wouldn't happen again. It is just so surreal, I'm blown away by the whole thing.

"We needed to win today to close the gap to Marcos, and that's what we did and Marcos had a shocker. We've had a great run towards the end of the Championship - it is on for Eastern Creek, this is going to be a battle.

"The pressure is now on you know who, and I'm certain after this weekend that they are feeling it. The tide has turned slightly, but I don't think we could apply any more pressure. They (Stone Brothers) went very well there early in the year, and we still have to beat him by a few spots, so it won't be easy."

Skaife said the results this weekend show he is still in contention for the Championship, despite a 70 point deficit to Ambrose, and 46 to Murphy in second.

"We've seen this weekend how things can change, Sydney has been kind to us in the past and I am certainly going there to win. I'm not going to lie down yet, let's get there and see what happens, it is certainly going to be on for young and old," he warned.

"The final race today was about getting a good start. We had a good car, it was nice and flowing and it looked after its tyres. The pitstop in the second race was sensational too, I think we jumped a couple of spots then.

"When we disappearing into the tyre wall yesterday, I certainly didn't think we'd be on the podium."

Todd Kelly was happy with his third spot, and was mindful of the Championship stratus of Murphy when he though about challenging him late in the final race.

"The car was better in the wet than the dry," he said comparing yesterday with today. "There were a couple of spots where I could have had a go at Murph, but the two in front of me were fighting for the Championship, and I don't think they'd respect me if I took one of them out."

Former Auckland boy Paul Radisich was fourth overall for the weekend in his Betta Electrical Falcon, the first Ford home in a tough day for the Blue Oval, just ahead of a rejuvenated Jason Bargwanna in the Orrcon Steel Falcon. Jason Bright was fifth after climbing from 21st on grid to third in today's early race, and backing that up with second in the final.

But all eyes were on the SBR pairing of Russell Ingall and Marcos Ambrose as they bustled their way up from 18th and 19th after their compulsory pitstops to claim ninth and 10th at race's end. Ingall paved the way for his teammate, who managed to pass him on the penultimate lap to claim a vital extra two points.

For Ambrose it was a good recovery after a disastrous second race where a puncture cost him nearly 20 spots on the track.

"We had car speed today, but things didn't go our way," Ambrose said. "We still have a points break over Murphy, and we just need to gather up and head to Eastern Creek looking for a win.

"The hardest cars to pass today were other Fords, it is frustrating because Ford hasn't won a Championship for six years and you've got to try and get past cars from the same manufacturer today."

The final race for the weekend went green for its whole 54 laps, but the earlier race had two Safety Car incidents just near its end. The first was to collect the beached Paul Dumbrell Commodore, and the second to recover Garth Tander's car which was damaged after an incident with a spinning David Thexton.

The final round of the 2003 V8 Supercar Championship is VIP Petfoods Main Event at Eastern Creek in three week's time.

<pre> Round 12/PlaceMakers V8 International 1. Greg Murphy Kmart Commodore VY 2. Mark Skaife HRT Commodore VY 3. Todd Kelly HRT Commodore VY 4. Paul Radisich Betta Electrical Falcon BA 5. Jason Bargwanna Orrcon Falcon BA 6. Jason Bright Team Brock Commodore VX 7. Rick Kelly Kmart Commodore VX 8. Simon Wills Team Dynamik Commodore VY 9. Glenn Seton Ford Credit FPR Falcon BA 10. Steven Richards Castrol Perkins Commodore VY

Championship Standings (Corrected Scores after 12 Rounds) 1. Marcos Ambrose 1,893 2. Greg Murphy 1,869 3. Mark Skaife 1,823 4. Russell Ingall 1,709 5. Craig Lowndes 1,588 6. Jason Bright 1,584 7. Rick Kelly 1,562 8. Steve Richards 1,571 9. Todd Kelly 1,538 10. Paul Radisich 1,477

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Series Supercars
Drivers Garth Tander , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Greg Murphy , Russell Ingall , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Craig Lowndes , Jason Bargwanna , Paul Radisich , Glenn Seton , Todd Kelly , Simon Wills , Paul Dumbrell , Steve Richards , Steven Richards