When Murphy first tamed Aussie racing's best

28 Aug 2022
Murphy's dominance began in the 90s

Supercars first raced for championship points in New Zealand in 2001, and Greg Murphy took home the spoils.

However, Pukekohe’s first real foray came five years earlier - and Murphy’s dominance was a sign of what was to come.

Pukekohe will next week host the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, which will be the first NZ round since 2019.

The famous circuit’s comeback will double as its farewell, with the circuit to cease motorsport activities in 2023.

Murphy was the ‘King of Pukekohe’, winning nine of the first 15 races at the circuit.

His nine wins remain a circuit record, with Jamie Whincup next on six.

Countryman and series leader Shane van Gisbergen has five wins, his last coming in 2019.

Murphy claims victory in 2001

Murphy was riding high in late 1996 following his breakthrough Sandown-Bathurst double with Craig Lowndes.

In November 1996, a dozen Supercars took to Pukekohe and Wellington for the Mobil NZ Series.

Murphy took the wheel of Lowndes’ #1 Holden Racing Team Commodore.

The then young Kiwi teamed with none other than Peter Brock with HRT.

Wayne Gardner, Neil Crompton, Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall completed the Holden line-up.

The Ford line-up was headlined by local hope Paul Radisich, along with Dick Johnson, John Bowe, Glenn Seton and Tony Longhurst.

Radisich, then a British Touring Car Championship racer for Ford, made his first V8 starts since 1994.

Murphy on track in 1996 at Pukekohe

Murphy foreshadowed his future Pukekohe dominance with pole and victory in the three 20-minute sprint races.

The V8s then headed to Wellington, which hosted three sprints on a revised street circuit.

1995 series champion Bowe took pole and won the first two heats.

However, Murphy saved the best until last with victory in the finale, despite crashing in practice.

It was enough to see Murphy win the series ahead of Bowe, with Radisich keeping the home fans happy with P2 in the finale.


New Zealand would have to wait five years until the series returned, this time for championship points.

Gone was Wellington’s tight and twisty street circuit, with Pukekohe the host.

Wellington's last hurrah in 1996

However, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same - Murphy catapulted to three straight wins.

Holden would go undefeated at Pukekohe until 2004, when Marcos Ambrose won the opener.

It would be Ford’s only Pukekohe win in 21 starts between 2001 and 2007 before the series moved to the Hamilton streets.

Murphy was responsible for nine of the wins, the hometown hero very much the dominant force.

"There seemed to be a few places that I seemed to really have much better results than a lot of others," Murphy said.

"And I suppose in many ways, thankfully, Pukekohe back in New Zealand was one that was very kind over the years, and I tended to have equipment there that seemed to work really well and suited my way of driving.

"It fell into place, I’d much prefer it was there than somewhere that didn’t have the same kind of affinity or same kind of meaning and feeling.

McLaughlin celebrates in 2019

"I’m very fortunate to have that kind of thing happen and I really relished the opportunity to be there and race, being a Kiwi in one of the, if not the, best touring car series’ in the world in an Australian domestic championship.

"To have a round at home and have that success was very special.

"As far as the Pukekohe wins go, they for me rate right up there as the best things that ever happened in my Supercar career."

Holden still had Ford’s edge in Hamilton, winning the head-to-head 6-5.

A new-look Pukekohe returned in 2013, and Holden won 14 races to Ford’s seven.

Ford did, however, have the last laugh with Scott McLaughlin’s 2019 victory the most recent at Pukekohe.

Murphy will return to the track - and microphone - at Pukekohe.

The four-time Bathurst winner will dovetail his broadcast commitments with races aboard an historic Sierra.

Supercars will return to New Zealand on September 9-11. Purchase your ITM Auckland SuperSprint tickets now.

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