Greg Murphy got off to the best possible start at the first round of the BNT V8 SuperTourer series, avoiding drama on the track and an afternoon oil slick to claim all three race wins at Hampton Downs.
Murphy bagged the first and second races in style, before a superb performance in the 30 lap feature race saw him complete the treble. “I have to admit that in practice I was worried, the front of the car and the rear of the car were not connected and that did not make the car good,” he said.
“We made a few changes and this morning in qualifying we had the car working exceptionally well. It stayed like that for the rest of the day and despite oil along the racing line for most of the lap in the final race, I was still able to control the race. It’s a great start, I don’t expect it will be easy as we move into round two, but we’ve got to be happy with a start to the season like this.”
In stark contrast to Murphy, reigning champion Scott McLaughlin had a weekend to forget. After a mid-pack qualifying run, he was involved in a huge first corner incident that took six cars out in the first race. His was the worst damaged and his team spent most of the day repairing it. He started the final race, but only lasted eight laps before retiring.
Feature race winner in 2012 Ant Pedersen again shone in the solo International Motorsport car and was Murphy’s major challenger in the first two races. In the third race he was affected more than most by the oil on the track and had a huge moment late on but executed the best save of the day to keep his race alive. “I did think I was in the wall, so it was a bit of luck that it came back to me and I was able to continue.” Sixth place in the feature race netted a fine second overall for the round.
Third overall for the weekend was Richard Moore, clearly benefitting from M3 Racing’s collective sharing of expertise. At the sharp end throughout the day Moore looked fast and consistent and his third place was well-deserved.
New drivers Dominic Storey and Ashley Walsh showed great turns of speed at stages during the weekend, and will surely add a little more spice to an already exciting BNT V8 SuperTourer field. Shane van Gisbergen just got better and better and his second place in the final race was very popular with the crowd. It was good also to the old guard perform well. John McIntyre was back on form after his season ending crash at Ruapuna, taking a great third place in the feature race, finishing just a couple of seconds up on Craig Baird, who also showed huge pace in the race. Paul Manuell – the oldest racer in the field – had a strong weekend and took sixth overall for the round despite losing a lot of time in the final race.
1. Greg Murphy M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
2. Ant Pedersen International Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
3. Richard Moore M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
4. Shane van Gisbergen MPC Ford Falcon V8ST
5. John McIntyre JMR Ford Falcon V8ST
6. Paul Manuell M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
7. Daniel Gaunt Tasman Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
8. Ashley Walsh MPC Holden Commodore V8ST
9. Tim Edgell Edgell Performance Racing Holden V8ST
10.André Heimgartner MPC Holden Commodore V8ST
Pole man Ant Pedersen held off a charging Greg Murphy going into the first turn but there was chaos behind the leaders as Andy Booth and Ashley Walsh clashed, sending Walsh off line and triggering some serious avoidance by the other drivers behind. In the melee that followed Craig Baird spun and Scott McLaughlin’s 2013 campaign got off to the worst possible start, with damage to the left hand side of the car ending his first race after just one corner. Also involved were Simon McLennan, Craig Baird and Simon Evans. There was no option other than a full restart but the incident left Booth, Walsh, Baird and McLaughlin all out of the running.
At the second start, Pedersen again made a clean start, leading Greg Murphy around the first lap ahead of John McIntyre and Daniel Gaunt. Paul Manuell completed lap one in fifth with Richard Moore in a good sixth. M3 Racing cars filled three of the top six places at this stage and it was about to get better as Murphy took the lead on lap three into Turn 1. Pedersen had no choice but to tuck in behind and focus on staying ahead of John McIntyre, who in turn had his mirrors full of Daniel Gaunt in the Tasman car.
Gaunt kept the pressure on last year’s Sprint Series champ, and looked quicker than McIntyre. Pressuring the Mac Attack into a mistake is not an easy task, however and on lap nine the two touched on the infield sweeper as Gaunt went for a pass, spinning McIntyre around and dropping Gaunt to fourth behind Moore.
Shane van Gisbergen moved steadily through the field – passing Tim Edgell for seventh on lap 8. This became sixth when McIntyre spun.
At the front Pedersen was not letting Murph go, staying very close as the race entered the last few laps. Nothing could stop Murphy however, and he cruised across the line to open his account for 2013.
Greg Murphy led away from the start with Pedersen the time the man in hot pursuit. Into lap two, Ant made a great move down the inside of Murphy’s Holden into turn one as Greg went wide – getting a much cleaner line and catapulting himself into a three car length lead by turn two. The action continued with Cunningham incurring a drive through after tipping Simon McLennan around near the back of the pack.
A great race for third, fourth and fifth saw M3 team mates Richard Moore and Paul Manuell crapping with Shane van Gisbergen – the three running nose to tail. Moore’s hunt for a way by Manuell reaped a result on lap six when he made the pass. Van Gisbergen followed him through at the downhill sweeper to take fourth and Manuell began to slowly fall into the clutches of John McIntyre.
By lap 7 Manuell’s mirrors were full of the bright green JMR Ford Falcon V8ST and into turn one at the start of lap eight John was through. The attention of the crowd, however, was on Murphy, who made another error at Turn 1 allowing Richard Moore and van Gisbergen to close right up. He gathered it all up without spinning and set off after leader Pedersen, with Moore and the Giz in hot pursuit.
As the race entered the second half of its 20 laps, Pedersen established a clear and decisive lead. Moore meanwhile, increased the pressure on Murphy whose car did not look as sharp as it had in the first race.
After a period of relative calm on the track, action recommenced in style on lap 17 when a mistake by Pedersen dropped him back into the clutches of Murphy and Moore, the top three running nose to tail with three to go. Murphy wasted no time in exploiting the opportunity and passed Pedersen into next time around. That sealed his second win of the day.
Murphy led again into the first turn, once again pushed hard by Ant Pedersen. Halfway round the lap and a bold move from Daniel Gaunt saw him lock up and cause havoc in the mid-field. Next time around Simon Evans ran wide at turn four and was collected by Mitch Cunningham as he returned to the track. Heavy contact with the wall meant instant retirement for Simon and a Safety Car for the rest.
With the race back underway, van Gisbergen was the man on the move and was quickly harrying Murphy, with Pedersen looking menacing in third. John McIntyre and Tim Edgell caught the leaders by lap seven, suggesting Murph was either in trouble or protecting his tyres. The problem was, in fact, an oil slick virtually all the way round the circuit and deposited squarely on the racing line.
Further down the field, a wretched weekend for Scott McLaughlin saw him out of the race after eight laps, scant reward for the 2012 championship winning team who had spent most of the day getting the car up and running again after its first race damage.
The man on the move behind the leaders after ten laps was Craig Baird, flying through the field and easily despatching Tim Edgell for fifth. He immediately set off after John McIntyre, the United Videos Ford V8ST the quickest car on the track at this stage of the race.
At halfway, the top four was Murphy – who had a comfortable and expanding lead – followed by van Gisbergen, Pedersen and McIntyre. Going into the second half, Pedersen put a move on SVG, who looked to have slowed and then he himself made a mistake at the downhill sweeper allowing John McIntyre to leapfrog past him and almost make it past the International Motorsport car as well. All this action was a result of the oil. The scrap between the three of them continued and on lap 21 McIntyre forced his way by, quickly followed by van Gisbergen, a move which demoted Pedersen to fourth. Shane then set back off after McIntyre. He was through to second by lap 24. Pedersen then looked to be in serious tyre trouble, falling back into the clutches of Baird and Walsh and having to perform a great save on lap 27 to keep his Ford Falcon V8ST out of the wall at Turn 3. Again, the problem was the effects of the oil, so bad that Ant thought it might even be the track surface breaking up.
Murphy meanwhile, sailed serenely on with a five second lead, well ahead of the drama. He cruised home to take his easiest win of a Hampton Downs clean sweep. Shane van Gisbergen capped a great debut weekend with a hard fought second place ahead of John McIntyre, firmly back in the mix after his big shunt at the end of 2012. Craig Baird was a superb fourth, while Ashley Webb marked himself as a definite contender with a fifth place finish ahead of Ant Pedersen.
Full results here: