The Australian V8 Supercars will roar at Pukekohe for the final time this weekend before the New Zealand round of the series goes to the new Hamilton street circuit in 2008.
And the New Zealand drivers in the field are all determined to try for a podium finish if not a win, the four present told a press conference in Auckland on Tuesday.
New Zealand-born Steven Richards wasn’t at the conference, but multiple Pukekohe winner Greg Murphy was. So were his Tasman Motorsport Holden Commodore teammate Jason Richards, Team Kiwi Ford Falcon racer Paul Radisich, and Sirromet Commodore pilot Fabian Coulthard.
Coulthard conceded his chances of a podium were ultra-slender: he’s in his first full season in Aussie V8s and is still learning the ropes.
But the others think they’re in with a chance, though Radisich said privately that he feels his best chance is a top 10 finish. He’ll be trying for better, though.
“My aim will be to try to get on the podium at the end of the weekend.”
That would be a fitting international finale at a track he first drove on when he sneaked out there after school with his mothers’ car. “Mum would say: ‘the car’s got a knock in the steering it didn’t have this morning, and no brakes.”
Murphy, who first went to Pukekohe in his Formula Ford scholarship year, racing in the non-championship races at the Nissan-Mobil Touring Car meeting, says he’ll be looking for a podium finish, though he’s in a new team which has a different way of working, so it will be like going to a new track. Richards first raced there in 1994 in a Mini Seven.
“It’s always a buzz to come to Pukekohe and if I can win this race meeting it will mean almost as much to me as winning Bathurst. There’d be nothing better than winning in front of your home crowd.”
Coulthard first raced at Pukekohe in 1999, in a Formula Ford.
Richards and Radisich said they’d both been to the historic south of Auckland track before they became racing drivers.
Radisich has no memory of it, but he’s pretty sure he would have been there in 1962, the year the track opened and he was born.
“We used to go there on family picnics. Frank [his father] used to race there.”
“He was born there,” quipped Murphy.
Richards says he went there as part of Murphy’s crew, working on his Formula Ford: “I was picking the stones out of the tyres.”
Though all the drivers are sad to see the V8s stop racing at a track that is fast and challenging and suits the cars, they’re looking forward to the Hamilton street race.
“I think the street race will bring New Zealand motorsport to a whole new level,” says Murphy.