Round 3 wide open as V8 SuperTourers head for Mighty Manfeild
As the dust of a busy weekend of V8 racing settles in Hamilton, the question on every Kiwi motorsport enthusiast's lips is whether a fit-again Greg Murphy can pick up where he left off at Round 1 at Hampton Downs and bag this weekend's Manfeild V8 SuperTourer round win to propel himself back to the sharp end of the championship.
For Murphy, Manfeild is home. His history is intertwined with the Feilding track. It was here that he used the proceeds of the sale of a TV set to enter the Shell Scholarship and beat 170 other entries to secure a drive in Formula Ford with Richard Lester Motorsport. It was here that he worked as a circuit driving instructor around the same time. It was here he won his New Zealand Grand Prix title and it was here he bagged an enduro win in a Nissan Sentra alongside one John McIntyre.
It's not hard to see him not figuring in the event, especially as the Number 51 Mike Pero backed M3 Racing Holden is unquestionably the car to beat after two rounds of the championship. All things considered, fitness permitting, Murphy must surely start this weekend as favourite.
Predictably, it is old sparring partner McIntyre shaping up to be one of Murph's principal rivals as the drivers and teams find their feet with the brand new V8 SuperTourer racing formula.
Early lack of pace at Hampton Downs was replaced at the Powerbuilt Tools Raceway with a much more feisty performance – with the three time NZ V8 champion defending a second place in Race 1 very robustly and taking fourth in Race 2 before winning the Feature Race in another race-long display of defensive driving.
So robust was Johnny Mac's defence in fact, that it raised a few eyebrows off the track. There wasn't a driver out there in the 16 car field, however, who in the same position would not have driven in exactly the same way. It was a testament to McIntyre's prodigious talent that he was able to extract the absolute maximum from himself on a day when the car was a few tenths off the ultimate pace of the very fastest cars and bag big points and the series' lead.
Due a win soon is former A1GP superstar Jonny Reid. Right on the pace in just about every session he has run so far, the cards just need to fall his way. Exceptional at finding places early on, he also could be a major factor for the Round 1 on a circuit he too knows exceptionally well.
Scott McLaughlin could also be in with a shout this weekend if the Supercheap Holden performs. He has been hobbled with engine woes as the team and the series find their feet with the new breed of cars, though the Gold Coast based superstar seemed to attract more than his fair share of mechanical gremlins.
" It was a very tough round for the whole team! Everything that could go wrong went wrong but again we showed really good pace," he said. "Onwards and upwards though and we are all looking forward to Manfeild. It's one of my favourite circuits I really hope it treats me better than the last few tracks."
Also due a good result is McIntyre's team mate Steve Richards. It was in the last race of the second round that he finally looked like he was accessing the speed in the CRC Falcon and his third fastest lap in the race was a definite step forward. He will be hoping to maintain at least the rate of improvement he say in Christchurch, and could be factor if he can find the speed to vault the mid-field traffic.
And last but not least, the evergreen superstar and winner of countless championships Craig Baird was right there at Ruapuna and is another who excels at Manfeild. It's only a matter of time before he, and Kayne Scott, win races in this category and they'll be aiming to begin writing that chapter of their illustrious careers this weekend.