Pukekohe: Round three preview

Murphy revels in his private House of Pain Pukekohe is New Zealand driver Greg Murphy's private "House of Pain". His unbeaten record at the V8 Supercar Championship Series track is daunting and highly revered by his peers. The town just...

Murphy revels in his private House of Pain

Pukekohe is New Zealand driver Greg Murphy's private "House of Pain". His unbeaten record at the V8 Supercar Championship Series track is daunting and highly revered by his peers.

The town just south of Auckland on the New Zealand north island may not be as cold and uncomfortable as many a visiting rugby side has found Dunedin's famous Carisbrook Stadium, but its cooler conditions can make a difference.

In the three short years of the Pukekohe event Murphy has made it his own. Just last year, when the event was the penultimate round, Murphy's win gave him one final chance to steal the V8 Supercar Championship Series from under the nose of ultimate winner Marcos Ambrose.

Murphy is understandably the centre of attention in New Zealand this week. He is fourth in the current championship and a respected ambassador for motor racing, and sport, in the country.

Former champion Mark Skaife politely referred to Murphy recently as "that local bloke". It's an accurate summation of Murphy who is a current hero in New Zealand motor racing.

Murphy has conducted hundreds of interviews with the Motorsport hungry New Zealand media, including a whirlwind 19 individual chats in one hour at an appearance in Auckland on Tuesday.

"Winning our third straight last November was like a fairytale, the reaction from the fans was just amazing," Murphy said.

"I would like to think we can do it again, my Kmart Racing team-mates seem to always rise to the occasion for me at home and we will all be trying our hardest to win again."

Murphy said the shorter, sprint style races -- three separate races of 36, 54 and 54 laps over the 2.82km track -- meant for tighter, more intense racing. It generally takes these V8 Supercars under a minute to cover almost 3km -- with corners thrown in.

"Because the races are three short sprints, qualifying is vitally important," he said. "Our car may not have been the best in the field last year but because we qualified well and the Kmart crew gave me great pit stops we were able to hang on."

Murphy's much younger team-mate Rick Kelly, 21, is gunning for his mate having won his first individual event at Eastern Creek in the last round.

It was there in driving rain that Kelly, little brother of Holden Racing Team's Todd Kelly, showed the championship exactly what he is made of. There is always a chance of rain at Pukekohe.

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"It's going to be dangerous being the first driver to beat Greg in New Zealand, but I've got the taste for winning and I'm prepared to chance it," Kelly said.

"I like Pukekohe, it is a unique track, fast and flowing, a great place to race and I have had good results there the past two years."

Ambrose is still in second place in the championship having battled Sydney's rain which brought the field up to the pace of his Ford. He looked forward to a dry track with speed.

"This is a track where you will spend the best 57-odd seconds of your life," Ambrose said. "The track is so short, but a great drive nevertheless."

Regardless of the fact Murphy and Ambrose are probably favourites, it can't be discounted that Steven Richards leads the championship in his Holden. Again Richards is proving the most consistent driver of the series.

-www.v8supercar.com.au

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Series Supercars
Drivers Greg Murphy , Rick Kelly , Mark Skaife , Todd Kelly , Steven Richards