Scott McLaughlin sealed the inaugural overall V8 SuperTourer title in style at the Mike Pero Real Estate 350 at Ruapuna in Christchurch today but admitted he had made the biggest mistake of his successful season in the final race when he took out Greg Murphy.
McLaughlin won the first race but in the second he collided with Murphy, spinning him down the order and incurring a 50-second penalty for himself and Jono Webb - a penalty which handed the enduro series title to Murphy and co-driver Jack Perkins.
"I've had a great season but I made a mistake there and I'll definitely go and see Murph and apologise," said the youngster, who has been the driving revelation for New Zealand in V8s in Australia and New Zealand this season - and a deserving champion in SuperTourers.
Murphy, out of grip having fought his way to the front, went into the final corner with the young pretender to his throne hard on his heels. A small slide slowed him and McLaughlin hit him hard.
Sprint series champ John McIntyre, second in the overall points race going into the round, had to watch from the sidelines following a big practice shunt which left him with a dislocated shoulder and fractured ribs.
Starting the opening 53-lap race from pole position, McLaughlin survived a dramatic start to emerge from the first corner melee to lead narrowly in the Auto Trade Direct Holden V8ST.
McLaughlin held his nerve during the opening stint to hold off Ant Pedersen, who was sharing the International Motorsport Falcon with Alex Davison. The two traded fastest laps throughout the first stint, but McLaughlin maintained a small but consistent advantage.
He handed the car over to partner Webb on lap 25 with the Aussie V8 Supercar driver maintaining the lead to the flag. Murphy's slim title chances evaporated at the first corner of the race. He was hit by third starter Steve Owen, who was given a drive through for the contact.
"I got hit from behind," said Murphy. "It was definitely Steve Owen but I don't know why it happened. I got a very good start and got between Scott and Ant but Ant just kept coming over on me. I had my nose in between the two of them and If I'd stayed where I was I would have turned Ant in front of Scott so trying to avoid an accident I backed out of it which probably let Steve Owen up the inside of me. We got down to turn one and I don't know if he got squeezed by me or not but I got a big smack in the back of the car and after that the rest was history."
McLaughlin added of his collision with Murphy in the second race: "I was trying to get a run on the straight and unfortunately I spun out Murph who is a Kiwi hero. I would do it differently if I had my time again. I just bumped him at the wrong time and it was a bit of inexperience. It's the biggest mistake I've made all year but I will learn from it."
The penalties handed the race win to a delighted Tasman team, with Steve Horne's outfit rounding out the V8 SuperTourer season with the team's first win since the late 90s.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick