On this day: Murphy gets his last round win

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 17/04/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

Believe it or not, Jamie Whincup's domination of V8 Supercars racing will come to an end.

We know that, because for years Greg Murphy was utterly unbeatable at his home round of the V8 Supercars Championship at Pukekohe.

Murph's incredible run reached its zenith and its conclusion 10 years ago today (April 17 2005), when he stood triumphant in near darkness on his Supercheap Auto Racing Holden Commodore VZ and was acclaimed by the huge and unsurprisingly parochial Kiwi crowd.

He won all three races on the weekend, set the fastest lap in each and claimed a new lap record.

And yet this was to be the last V8 Supercar round win he ever recorded. And Murphy had only one race win left in his career in the category, on the Gold Coast later the same year.

Murphy won at Pukekohe in 2001, 2002 and 2003 as well as 2005, greeting the chequered flag first in 11 out of the first 15 races conducted at the short, rough, fast track south of Auckland.

The charismatic, complex character from Hastings in the north island doesn't have a particular theory for why he was so dominant at Pukekohe, except he loved racing on home soil, the crowd support and the track layout itself.

"It was certainly a very proud moment in my career to be racing over in New Zealand in such a strong period for V8 Supercars," the 42-year old told v8supercars.com.au this week.

"It was a pretty awesome feeling being a Kiwi and being part of that ... the support from the crowd was amazing and maybe gave me a little edge the other guys didn't have.

"The track is a classic. It's incredibly fast, it's got that danger aspect to it because of the speed of it and the types of corners. You were on the edge all the time."

Murphy's triumph in 2005 was the perfect result for a massive crowd that sat enthralled through three action-packed races that included a Brad Jones roll - after contact with nephew Andrew! - and a massive front straight shunt that took out Craig Baird's WPS Falcon, Paul Dumbrell's Castrol Commodore and Cam McConville's GRM Holden.

The repairs to the fence - Baird even knocked over a power pole - took so long that the Betta Electrical-sponsored Triple Eight Falcons of Craig Lowndes and Steve Ellery had to be wheeled off the grid with flat batteries for the restart of the weekend's final race.

It was a rare ignominy for the now-dominant operator in the category.

Mind you, it was also a highly promising weekend for Triple Eight as Lowndes scored his first pole position for the team. He then spent much of the rest of the weekend bashing and barging with fellow Ford factory driver and double defending champion Marcos Ambrose in the Stone Brothers Racing Falcon.

It was left to Ambrose's team-mate Russell Ingall to pick his way through the debri to be best of the rest behind Murphy on points for the weekend. That type of consistency became the hallmark of the feisty South Australian's year as he went on to win the drivers' championship.

At Pukekohe that weekend the rest of the top 10 were made up by Ambrose, Mark Skaife (HRT), Paul Radisich (Team Kiwi), Jason Bright (FPR), John Bowe (BOC), Murphy's team-mate Paul Weel, Ellery and Richards.

Amongst those missing out on the top 10 were Garth Tander in 13th (HSV Dealer Team), Whincup in 14th (Tasman Motorsport), Lowndes in 15th, Mark Winterbottom 18th (Larkham) and Rick Kelly 20th (HSV).

"It was a hell of a field of cars and drivers," Murphy said. "There were 32 cars on the grid - wow!

"In some ways that amount of cars then made it even harder (than now). The quality now is incredibly strong, there is no question about it, but the depth was just as good 10 years ago and the quality of the racing was very, very good and strong.

"To be in the top 10 was just as hard then as it is now."

Pukekohe 2005 was only Murphy's second outing for SCAR/Paul Weel Racing (PWR) and seemed an obvious validation of his decision to leave Tom Walkinshaw's fracturing empire - remembering the Kelly family had taken over K-Mart Racing in 2004.

Murphy's four years there had netted two Bathurst wins, the Lap of the Gods and two second places and two fourth place finishes in the drivers' championship.

The move to the SCAR/PWR team co-owned by Paul Weel and father Kees seemed a strong bet considering how well Jason Bright had performed for the team.

But engineer Phil Keed's decision to follow Bright to FPR was a pre-season setback and the decision to swap from Walkinshaw to Larry Perkins-prepared engines during the season proved a technical challenge the team could not surmount.

"We had a lot of failures and it was just a real shame," Murphy said.

"There were considerable changes to the car and once we did that the balance was gone.

"It just hurt our momentum, although we started to get some pace back towards the end of the year."

Murphy finished 11th in the championship and then slumped to a disastrous 24th in his second season at PWR. He then moved to Tasman Motorsport - in which his family had an ownership share - for three years.

Then there was a single year at Paul Morris Motorsport and two years with the Kellys once more before his career wrapped as an endurance co-driver with the Holden Racing Team - where his V8 Supercar/touring car career started in the 1990s.

But Murphy retains his links with V8 Supercars as a television commentator and will be at Pukekohe for the ITM 500 Auckland on November 6-8 calling the action.

He is understandably proud of his Pukekohe record, not least because so many young Kiwis were inspired by his deeds to follow in his footsteps including V8 Supercars Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard and - especially - Volvo ace Scott McLaughlin, with whom Murphy has a strong relationship.

"It's a pretty cool feeling they mention that and say it was something they focussed on," Murphy said. "It's quite a nice thing to have behind you."

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter