by V8 SuperTourers/Richard Gee
Greg Murphy survived a chaotic feature race peppered by two safety car periods to take the round win at the first ever V8 SuperTourers event at Hampton Downs, but it was Ant Pedersen in his International Motorsport BankLink Falcon V8ST who stole the show in the feature race with a miraculous win.
Over 20,000 turned up to see the action on Sunday, which began with a Murphy demonstration in Race 2. Murph once again had to claw back time and speed after a slow rolling start, but fought through to win in style and take his second straight podium finish. He headed home an impressive Jonny Reid and Kayne Scott. Andy Booth was fourth after his podium in Race 1 and Eddie Bell had a fine run to fifth in the beautiful Independent Fisheries Falcon V8ST.
If that race whetted the appetite of the crowd in the blistering heat, then the feature race had them on the edge of their seats.
Corkery left and Moore clash during the Feature Race.
Front row starters Murphy and Kayne Scott got a clean getaway, with Scott taking the lead followed in hot pursuit by Jonny Reid, Andy Booth and John McIntyre, finally finding some form in his BP Ultimate Falcon V8ST after a challenging first weekend in the series he is so passionate about. With a long race ahead of them, the drivers could be forgiven for being a little cautious, but there was action right from lap one with contact between Richard Moore in the Skinny Commodore V8ST and Colin Corkery in the Koba Batteries Falcon V8ST leaving the Sydney-based Kiwi with no option but to retire.
As the initial laps unfolded, the focus on the track was on a fierce battle between Craig Baird in the United Videos Falcon V8ST and Paul Manuell in the Orix Commodore V8ST. Baird made a couple of strong challenges but Manuell held him off. On lap six the focus switched to the front as Murphy reeled in leader Scott. A pass looked on at the long and fast Turn 6, the final corner of the lap, but Murphy overcooked it slightly and hit the back of Scott tipping Peak Oil Commodore V8ST into a spin. The decision of the race stewards was instant and Murph headed for the pits for a drive through penalty that relegated him down to the tail of the field and with a big job to do to secure the round win, especially as his misdemeanour left Jonny Reid out front.
Two laps later there was more high drama when Johnny McIntyre nipped by Andy Booth at Turn 1. Eddie Bell tried to follow him and tagged Booth pitching him into a high speed spin. Out of all the carnage Jonny Reid led, from McIntyre and the second International Motorsport Ford of Ant Pedersen, which had picked its way through the action without any damage and was flying.
It stayed nose to tail until Lap 19 when debris on the track forced out the Safety Car. It stayed out for three laps whilst the mess was cleaned up but on the restart Richard Moore had a spin exiting Turn 4 and backed the car into the wall, though he was able to restart.
Scott McLaughlin was going well at this stage ignoring the effects of a nasty virus and focussing on hunting down a result that reflected his considerable speed in the car at Hampton Downs and Pedersen too was on the move, putting a great move on McIntyre to take second on Lap 24.
Murph celebrates his Race 2 win.
As the race moved into its closing stages, the dice of drama rolled again and Geoff Emery's car shed its rear fender on the front straight brining out the Safety car once again. At the restart, Reid did not have the momentum of Pedersen and it was Ant who got the jump to lead the field into Turn 1 with only a couple of laps to go. McIntyre made a great move on Reid to take second and a huge scuffle behind saw Murphy spin and Reid lose his rear diffuser and come into the clutches of Steven Richards and Craig Baird, both featuring for the first time over the weekend.
With the crowd on their feet, Pedersen - who lest we forget was working in an accountancy practice last season - roared home to an unexpected but hugely popular victory followed home by McIntyre and a relieved McLaughlin. Murphy recovered well enough to take the round and the V8 SuperTourer series lead after one round and there was something quite appropriate in that, as it was the four-time Bathurst winner who really drew the biggest cheers from the huge crowds.
"What a start to the series," he said. "Great weekend, great crowd and some fantastic racing."
And that about said it all.
Race 2 Top 10
1 Greg Murphy M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
2 Jonny Reid International Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
3 Kayne Scott Farmer Racing Services Holden Commodore V8ST
4 Andy Booth AV8 Motorsport Holden Commodore V8ST
5 Eddie Bell Dinsdale Engineering Ford Falcon V8ST
6 John McIntyre John McIntyre Racing Ford Falcon V8ST
7 Andy Knight Knight Motorsport Holden Commodore V8ST
8 Paul Manuell M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
9 Ant Pedersen International Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
10 Steven Richards John McIntyre Racing Ford Falcon V8ST
Feature Race Top 10
1 Ant Pedersen International Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
2 John McIntyre John McIntyre Racing Ford Falcon V8ST
3 Scott McLaughlin Melbourne Performance Centre Holden Commodore V8ST
4 Steven Richards John McIntyre Racing Ford Falcon V8ST
5 Andre Heimgartner AV8 Motorsport Holden Commodore V8ST
6 Craig Baird Pedersen Wholesale Ford Falcon V8ST
7 Greg Murphy M3 Racing Holden Commodore V8ST
8 Andy Knight Knight Motorsport Holden Commodore V8ST
9 Jonny Reid International Motorsport Ford Falcon V8ST
10 Geoff Emery Melbourne Performance Centre Holden Commodore V8ST
Championship points after Round 1
1 Greg Murphy 625
2 Kayne Scott 497
3 Jonny Reid 471
4 Ant Pedersen 455
5 Andy Booth 445
6 John McIntyre 411
7 Scott McLaughlin 380
8 Andy Knight 375
9 Eddie Bell 339
10 Steven Richards 328
11 Andre Heimgartner 285
12 Craig Baird 267
13 Geoff Emery 198
14 Paul Manuell 166
15 Richard Moore 133
16 Colin Corkery 102