It wasn’t quite the farewell to the track that the man dubbed the “King of Pukekohe” wanted – Greg Murphy finished 13th overall in his MTA Tasman Motorsport VE Commodore in last weekend’s final Australian V8 Supercar round at the ultra-fast south of Auckland circuit.
But although the man who has won four previous V8 rounds there was disappointed that he couldn’t step on to the Pukekohe podium for one last time, he was delighted with the record crowd that turned to bid farewell to the V8s before they move to Hamilton in 2008.
“While the results didn’t fall the way of Tasman Motorsport this weekend, what a wonderful way for the track to go out with a record crowd of over 130,000 [over the three days],” Murphy said. “It’s been an amazing weekend and a brilliant seven years.
“The time is right for the V8s to move on and Hamilton’s street race will be sensational for everyone, but Pukekohe has done so much for motorsport in New Zealand and there could have been no better way to send it out.
“Pukekohe has given me so many memories and we’ll never forget the great times we had. They’re memories I’ll cherish.”
After finishing 12th in Saturday’s first race, Murphy finished Sunday’s two contests in 11th and 13th.
His teammate, Jason Richards, finished on his tail in 14th overall for the round – the third of the 2007 season – but it could’ve been both so much better and so much worse.
After finishing seventh in Race 1 on Sunday, Richards was running strongly in sixth in Sunday’s first race until a bolt in the left front lower control arm broke while the #3 MTA Commodore was at full speed on the back straight.
The car careered off the track at 275km/h, flying through the sandtrap and crashing into the tyre barriers.
“I was at maximum speed, about 275km/h, when I hit the brakes and the bolt broke in the front left suspension and from there I just became a passenger,” Richards said.
“I’ve been in races here where someone has been killed at the same spot and I don’t mind saying that for a moment I thought I was going to die. It was frightening, I had absolutely no control over the car and it wasn’t slowing down.
“It was real heart in the mouth stuff. Luckily, the sandpit did its job and slowed me down dramatically before I hit the barriers.”
After repairs were made, he started from rear of grid in the final 43 lapper. Richards finished 18th in Race 3 to close out Pukekohe’s V8 Supercar history.
Reigning V8 Supercar Champion Rick Kelly followed up his Clipsal 500 win by claiming the overall event victory, his Toll HSV Dealer Team teammate, Garth Tander finishing on equal points after winning Races 1 and 2. But a better final race result by Kelly gave him the nod. Ford’s Jamie Whincup was third.
Kelly’s win secured Holden a clean sweep of the seven Pukekohe events. Murphy won three straight from 2001 to 2003 and again in 2005. Jason Bright won in 2004 and the Holden Racing Team’s Mark Skaife last year.
Kelly retains his championship lead ahead of Tander, with Murphy and Richards remaining in 12th and 16th in points.
Having completed their hometown New Zealand round, Murphy and Richards will next contest Tasman Motorsport’s “home race" in Australia, with the fourth round of the championship taking place at Winton Motor Raceway, near Benalla in north-east Victoria on May 18-20.
They have a test session scheduled at the track before the event.