Scott McLaughlin took the overall lead in the V8 SuperTourer 2012 championship at Pukekohe on Sunday, but the Woodstock 500 was all about the successful return to the legendary track of Kiwi racing legend Greg Murphy.
After setting a blistering pole lap on Saturday in the Top Ten Shoot Out, Murphy backed it up with a sensational recovery drive in Race 1 to take second place and then led the charge to win Race 2 on Sunday morning. Race 3 was won in the pits as well as out on the track when the M3 Racing crew - and co-driver Jack Perkins - got their main man running in just 12 seconds. That gave him a huge lead entering the second phase of the race and safety cars could not prevent him taking the NZIGP Presidents Cup, an historic New Zealand motor racing trophy dating back to 1959.
"It just feels exactly the same to me as it did back in 2007," said Murph. "The corners, the bumps, they all seem just like they were before. The whole team did a brilliant job and it was great to come back here and win."
McLaughlin and Webb won Race 1 on Saturday but could not match Murphy's brilliance on the Pukekohe track and had to settle for the runner-up spot. They now lie second in the endurance element of the V8 SuperTourer championship behind the Mike Pero Mortgages car, but McLaughlin's solid weekend, combined with a weekend from hell for John McIntyre and his team - propelled McLaughlin into the overall 2012 series lead.
At the start of Race 2 Murphy made a great pass on leader Scott McLaughlin to snatch the lead on Lap 41 at the hairpin in Mike Pero car shared with race starter Perkins. He streaked away to take his first race win at Pukekohe for some years, another great drive after a trip across the grass at the Mountain had dropped Perkins from second to fourth and left Murphy with plenty to do after the pit stops.
McLaughlin - with an eye on the SuperTourer championship - gave chase, but seemed content with second. His team mate Jono Webb had lost out to Jack Perkins on a very busy first lap but soon got ahead and had been able to establish a very handy lead in the Trade Direct Holden before the stops.
Third after a great drive was the Daniel Gaunt and Andrew Waite Tasman Car - known by the team as 'Abe' - a first podium for Principal Steve Horne since Tony Kanaan won the Michigan 500 back in 1999. Richard Moore and Owen Kelly put in another strong drive to seal fourth after spending much of the race running in the top three.
It was all about Murphy/Perkins and McLaughlin/Webb again in the final Feature race of the Woodstock 500 and after some early jousting, McLaughlin found a way past Perkins and the two led a high speed train for the first quarter of the race.
Both McLaughlin and Perkins stayed out later than the rest as they continued their battle lapping pretty much identically in the 57 second bracket. At lap 34 McLaughlin was in for Webb and it was a quick turnaround for the Trade Direct Holden team. Jack Perkins brought his Mike Pero Mortgages Holden in on the next lap at exactly half distance and the M3 racing team responded to their rivals with the fastest pit stop yet seen in V8 SuperTourers to get Greg Murphy out in plenty of time to jump the McLaughlin/Webb car. Perkins exit from the car and Murphy's entry into it was like greased lightning and as he left the pits, a two second disadvantage had turned into a five second advantage for Car 51.
Webb spun at Castrol losing more time trying to pass Owen Kelly but was able to get going quickly though the spin demoted them to third place behind the Skinny Mobile car. As the race settled down after the stops it was an M3 racing one-two with Murphy comfortably ahead of Kelly. The Webb/McLaughlin car was a further three seconds adrift with Andrew Waite and Daniel Gaunt in fourth, themselves recovering from a quick spin induced by the Geoff Emery/Steve Owen Supercheap car.
A second Safety Car for debris on the track was called on Lap 46, but Murphy made a great getaway on the restart while Webb ran wide on the mountain and lost time behind Kelly and the Tasman car. He quickly regained third and then set about Kelly, who he re-passed in the latter stages of the race.
Third overall was a great result for Richard Moore and Owen Kelly, both having driven very well over the weekend.