Greg Murphy seized a one-point lead in the BNT V8 SuperTourer championship while Shane Van Gisbergen claimed a decisive victory in the final round of the championship at Pukekohe today.
With two long races in the Mike Pero Pukekohe 500 meeting tomorrow, the championship – feature class in the Hankook Super Series — could go to either of these two stars or to rising Hamilton driver Ant Pedersen, who lost his series lead when he finished fourth today.
Van Gisbergen started his Ford Falcon second on the grid, seized the lead with a clean inside move at the second corner and streaked away from the field. He handed the car over to co-driver Alex Davison with a good lead and the Australian had no trouble carrying on to victory in the 35-lap race.
But Holden driver Murphy was not fazed about finishing second with Aussie co-driver Jack Perkins.
“With the strategy we picked,” we’re happy,” Murphy said. “We’re ahead of Ant.”
Strategies would be the key to the rest of the weekend, he reckoned, especially tyre management.
Although tomorrow’s two races are very long, each car is still allowed only 10 new tyres for the weekend, plus any good tyres left over from earlier rounds.
“That’s good – it mixes it up,” Murphy said.
In tomorrow’s first 70-lap race the Murphy-Perkins duo will start near the front while Van Gisbergen and Davison will start a lot further back because Davison was less successful in his qualifying session.
Pedersen and Australian Chaz Mostert started their Ford from ninth on the grid today but steadily advanced to finish fourth, falling just that one point behind Murphy. Van Gisbergen is another 26 points behind Pedersen, a tiny margin when 620 points are on offer tomorrow for anyone who can win both races.
The effective points for the top three, discarding their worst round from earlier in the season, are now: Murphy 3092, Pedersen 3091, Van Gisbergen 3066.
Murphy’s team-mate, rising young Aucklander Richard Moore, drove another good race to come in third with Australian co-drive Tim Slade, Moore retains fourth place in this highly competitive championship.
Defending champion Scott McLaughlin and new co-driver James Moffat brought their Holden through to fifth after starting outside the top 10. McLaughlin was optimistic about his prospects for tomorrow, saying his car was very fast.
Refuelling will be used for the first time in this category tomorrow and the timing of the pit stops to take on fuel will be an important part of each team’s strategy.
The most spectacular moment of today’s race came when Simon Evans spun his Ford at nearly 200kmh, the car rotating wildly down the track with concrete walls on both sides.
“The right rear tyre blew,” the Aucklander explained. “I was trying to pick which wall I was going to hit. And I was worried that Scott McLaughlin was coming through and might hit me.”
In the end the car suffered only minor damage from a light brush with a wall. Looking at a replay from his in-car video, Evans confessed he had been lucky to avoid a big crash.
The tyre failure was particularly unfortunate because Evans and co-driver Jonny Reid had been driving very well, running fourth in this star-studded field.