Motorsport: V8ST finale goes to the wire

By Eric Thompson

Murph fights way to first national title in 17 years

Greg Murphy was pressed all the way, before second place proved good enough. Pictures / Andrew Bright
Greg Murphy was pressed all the way, before second place proved good enough. Pictures / Andrew Bright

Long-time V8 racer Greg Murphy made the most of the weekend's racing at the last round of the V8 SuperTourers season by clinching the 2013 title at Pukekohe.

Earlier in the year Murphy won his first series title in years by taking out the sprint portion of the series and now he has the big one.

The New Zealander last won a national title about 17 years ago. Murphy ruled Pukekohe back in the days when the V8 Supercars were first-time visitors to the South Auckland track.

This year the four-time Bathurst 1000 winner continued his run of success at the Pukekohe circuit with two seconds and a fifth to get his first V8 SuperTourers' series title.

"It has been a stressful weekend, but it finished off very nicely," said Murphy. "It's been a long year and it's a relief to get the job done - it would have been nice to have been in a more comfortable position going into the last race, but to have such a close finish was great for the series."

Murphy arrived at the final race day of the weekend with a one-point advantage over Ant Pedersen. After losing the points lead with fifth in Sunday morning's 70-lap race, he and co-driver Jack Perkins fought back with a second in the afternoon's final race, to seal the title by 28 points.

Murphy and Perkins knew they had to bring their Holden home at least two places ahead of Pedersen and Chaz Mostert.

After the leading teams had completed their compulsory two pit stops Murphy led, just one place ahead of Pedersen and with defending champion Scott McLaughlin not far back in third.

McLaughlin passed Pedersen, putting Murphy the necessary two places ahead of his title rival. His chances improved further when Pedersen made a mistake and was passed by Australian Tim Slade, co-driving with Richard Moore.

"We were struggling with the handling early on in the weekend and we were very concerned because of the championship situation," said Murphy. "The Mike Pero Racing crew changed a lot of components between races and thankfully the car became a lot more competitive.

"I knew I had to finish two places ahead of Ant to win the championship. Scott McLaughlin overtook him, but then Scott overtook me as well. Fortunately, Ant's car started to go off near the end and he lost a few more places.

"I never relaxed until I saw the chequered flag. It's a great result for everyone at Mike Pero Racing and M3 Motorsport, they have worked really hard and they all deserve this championship. Jack is a big part of it as well."

Perkins said: "I'm really happy for Murph and the whole team. I said it was a career highlight driving with a New Zealand motorsport legend on his turf, and it's even more of a highlight helping him win the title."

Pedersen clearly had issues with his car and fell back to fifth by the race end. However, he and Mostert had the consolation of winning the endurance section of the championship.

"We just didn't have the car to fight with, it's very simple really. We were struggling with the tyres late in the race," said Pedersen, who finished the season in second place overall.

Just as Pedersen was struggling with his car, up front McLaughlin was having his own problems. Toward the end of the race his car started billowing smoke and it looked like he was going to have to park it up with two laps to go.

"I said [over the team radio] I'm not stopping. It was the hub but the car was not too bad, it never really dropped off," said McLaughlin.

"It was good to get the first-round win this season for the team. It's been an up-and-down season. To race with Murph at Pukekohe is pretty cool."

Shane van Gisbergen had been in strong contention for the title after winning Saturday's shorter race, but any chance he had of snatching the title from Pedersen and Murphy ended when his car expired two laps into Sunday morning's race.

Nick Percat, recently confirmed as a full-time driver for Walkinshaw Racing in the V8 Supercars next year, showed what he's made of by monstering through the field from last to finish seventh with Paul Manuell.

Greg Murphy with his winner's trophy at the final round of the V8ST's.
Greg Murphy with his winner's trophy at the final round of the V8ST's.

V8 SuperTourers final points

1. Greg Murphy - 3559
2. Ant Pedersen - 3531
3. Shane van Gisbergen - 3066
4. Richard Moore - 2878
5. Scott McLaughlin - 2744
6. Daniel Gaunt - 2412
7. Andre Heimgartner - 2237
8. Tim Edgell - 1931

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 25 Nov 2014 03:14:59 Processing Time: 362ms