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It's Murph on home turf!

Pukka Pukekohe: the V8Supercar field lines up for a bizarre day's racing.

Greg Murphy and Mark Skaife were the big V8 Supercar winners at Pukekohe

12 Nov 2001

NOTHING was going to deny K-Mart Commodore driver Greg Murphy a glorious homecoming as he claimed pole position and victory in all three 100km sprint races run at Pukekohe Raceway for the first Shell Championship Series round ever held in New Zealand.

Murphy was fastest throughout provisional qualifying, fastest in the shootout for pole, and fastest in all three races to take the spoils from newly crowned V8Supercar champion, Holden Racing Team's Mark Skaife, and third-placed Ford rookie Marcos Ambrose (Pirtek Falcon).

The big crowd's wishes for a hometown hero victory was delivered in style and the 40,202 present at the end of the third and final race cheered wildly as Murphy saluted them with a smile as he stood on the bonnet of his K-Mart Holden in front of the grandstands.

"I am in shock, I really didn't expect it could turn out this good," said Murphy. "The car was unbelievable. I can't thank the team enough for giving me such a good car for this round, and the crowd, well, it felt like they were picking me up and carrying me that little bit quicker each lap. The support was just fantastic."Australian drivers can be happy there is only going to be one round per year held in New Zealand for the next five years, as this is definitely Murphy country. He has an unblemished record here in V8Supercars, having made a similar sweep of the three-race program when a dozen teams visited the circuit for exhibition races in 1996.

Murphy wasn't so pleased on Saturday night when stewards mistakenly stripped him of victory in the rain shortened first race, instead awarding it to Ford pilot Mark Larkham. His team strenuously argued their case to officials, eventually having the decision reversed late that night.

"We just shouldn't have had to do that work last night to get the win back. I was angry and disappointed that it happened," said Murphy. "The result was clear from the timesheets and the television. There are people there to do that job and they made a massive mistake.

"It took a bit of a shine off it but today's wins have made it a bit better. It would have been more disappointing for all the fans that paid their money and left without knowing the right result. It should be done professionally by everyone, not just the race teams. People need to be more careful with these things - it is very important to us."Kiwis flocked to the 2.8km circuit 40km south of Auckland in their droves, delivering promoters with a dream three-day crowd of 86,702.

Not only were they treated to a tremendous victory from one of their favourite sons, they also saw the sealing of a second consecutive Shell Series title for Skaife. He had needed only to extend his break over title combatant Russell Ingall (Castrol Commodore) by 13 points this weekend - and third, second and third placings in the three races was more than enough.

Despite the K-Mart and HRT cars being prepared in the same workshops under the TWR banner, Skaife was unable to catch Murphy and gave up in the end. Skaife also conceded a track position to his teammate Jason Bright in the third race, allowing him through for second on the final lap.

"We just didn't have the pace to match it with the K-Mart cars today, and Murphy drove faultlessly - it is the best drive I have ever seen from him," said Skaife.

"I slowed up to help Brighty in the series standings. It would be nice for the team to record a one-two finish in the championship. He had done a great job to come through from the rear of the field and the team radioed me to ask if I would let him go and of course I said no problems."Ambrose's Falcon was the fastest of the Fords on a weekend otherwise dominated by Holdens, and while he was pleased with his second, third and fourth placings in the races, he is aiming higher.

"It's a great result considering I have never been here before and all four TWR cars were just blindingly quick, so on that basis we will celebrate tonight," said Ambrose.

"Being the first Ford home is an accolade of sorts but it not what I want. I am a race car driver and I want to win races outright. My rookie year has been a platform to build on and 2002 will be our year."Bright recovered from a race one smash which left him at the rear of the field for race two and saw him stripped of 50 championship points to clamber back for fourth overall by the end of the third heat.

Tony Longhurst was a surprise packet in fifth in his privateer Holden, while Steven Johnson never quite hit top gear and finished sixth in the Shell Ford.

Murphy's teammate, Todd Kelly, showed the same sort of speed as the winner and would have finished higher than seventh but for crashes and a stop-go penalty. Paul Radisich (Shell Helix Falcon) had similar woes that prevented him from showing his best in front of his home crowd.

Gibson Falcon pilot Craig Lowndes was never able to get back in the hunt after a lap one, race one crash with Bright that left his Ford battered and bruised and on the 24th grid spot for race two.

Murphy's first round win this year has pushed him past Johnson for fourth place in the points standings, within striking distance of Bright and Ingall. The battle for best of the rest behind Skaife will be one to watch during the final round of the year at Victoria's Sandown Raceway.

"I couldn't have wished for much more than maximum points this weekend, and now I go to Sandown with a real good go at third in the championship," said Murphy.

1 Greg Murphy (Holden)
2 M Ambrose (Ford)
3 M Skaife (Holden)
4 J Richards (Holden)
5 R Ingall (Holden)
6 T Longhurst (Holden)
7 G Tander (Holden)
8 T Kelly (Holden)
9 S Johnson (Ford)
10 J Bargwanna (Holden)RACE TWO RESULTS:
1 Murphy
2 Skaife
3 Ambrose
4 J Bright (Holden)
5 Longhurst
6 Johnson
7 Tander
8 C Lowndes (Ford)
9 P Radisich (Ford)
1 Murphy
2 Bright
3 Skaife
4 Ambrose
5 Kelly
6 Johnson
7 L Perkins (Holden)
8 Lowndes
9 Longhurst
10 M Larkham (Ford)OVERALL RESULTS:
1 Murphy 288
2 Skaife 240
3 Ambrose 232
4 Bright 181
5 Longhurst 168
6 Johnson 164
7 Kelly 155
8 Tander 142
9 Perkins 132
1 Skaife 3290
2 Ingall 2720
3 Bright 2635
4 Murphy 2562
5 Johnson 2440
6 Kelly 2231
7 Radisich 2005
8 Tander 1977
9 Ellery 1936
10 Ambrose 1873Next round (final): Sandown, Victoria, December 2

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