Kiwi racing legend Greg Murphy put his name in the history books today when he took victory in the first ever V8 SuperTourers race at Hampton Downs.
In a thrilling race to kick the series off, around 6,000 race fans watched Murph reel in a fast starting Andy Booth to take the win. Surprise pole sitter Kayne Scott was second, showing himself to be a clear title contender after a late start to the series seemed to have little or no effect on his race day pace.
"To have the first race out of the way is a huge relief and obviously standing on the top step of the podium is very special - and it will remain with me for a very long time," said Murphy. "It's awesome to be a part of this and really the result is fantastic for the whole team. It was a great start to the series and a great start for our car and team."
Murphy caught and passed Booth in fine style after the Woodstock Holden driver bolted to take an early three second lead. The two time NZ V8 champions tyres paid the price in a track with a temperature of 41 degrees plus, losing their edge before half distance and bringing Booth back into the clutches of first Murphy and then Scott, who himself had his mirrors full of a fired up Jonny Reid. Reid's BankLink Ford looked one of the stronger cars in the second half of the 20 lap race, and Jonny made full use of his circuit knowledge and his more conservative approach with the tyres to be the man with the pace as the race entered its latter stages. Showing Jenson Button like ability to maximise his tyre performance without hurting them, he will be a major factor in the longer races on Sunday.
For Murphy and the crowd though, it was the perfect result. Booth was suffering from a minor misfire affecting the car on the straights and Murphy took advantage into Turn 1 on Lap 9, with both cars going side by side up to Turn 2 before the Mike Pero car prevailed. Kayne Scott followed suit at Turn 1 a lap later.
When the times counted in qualifying, Scott was right there to take a surprise pole and he converted that form into a great second place for Bill farmer's brand new Peak Oil team in the race. His pass on Booth was superb, and he was full of praise for the work of his team in getting the car to such a high standard of performance in a very limited time.
Craig Baird recovered from a lowly starting position to work his way through the field and finish fifth in the United Videos Ford. He had some contact with Steve Richards in the CRC Ford on the way, but the wily Baird came off best and continued to work his way up the order for a result that would have been a relief to crew chief gary Pedersen.
The top ten was rounded out by Andy Knight, Eddie Bell, Ant Pedersen and John McIntyre, the latter another to put in a strong recovery drive after a lowly starting position.
Elsewhere, Andre Heimgartner became the first driver in the V8 SuperTourer series to receive a drive through penalty when he bumped Scott McLaughlin's Supercheap Holden into a spin at the downhill sweeper Barrel 51. McLaughlin recovered and charged back through the field to finish tenth, clocking the fastest lap on the way. Heimgartner was also quick during his recovery drive, but with the cars so evenly matched, a drive through was always going to leave him bringing up the rear.