October 11, 2003


The most surprising thing at Bathurst isn’t that Greg Murphy is quickest -- he’s brilliantly speedy -- but that he’s been consistently fast all week. Murphy’s weakness is in car set-up, which can drop him down the time sheets if weather conditions change or other variables are introduced. Former Murphy technicians are scathing about the lack of feedback he’d deliver in testing. “He’d just say, ‘It’s too slow’,” one once told me. “What am I meant to do with that?”

Compared to Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife -- both of whom provide computer-like analysis of their car’s behaviour -- Murphy is limited. But, man, when he gets it together ... today’s 2:07.9503 is the quickest lap ever at Mt. Panorama, and builds on an entertaining feud between Murphy and HRT hardhead Mark Skaife. Note to Murphy: Skaife is a former junior boxer. Don’t push him.

Some might be surprised at John Bowe’s third placing, but Bathurst is a track that rewards experience. Larry Perkins, for example, was always fast here, although during regular season touring car rounds he’d be swamped by rapid youngsters. Bathurst’s high speeds and blind corners have a way of spooking the kids -- which is why so much was made of Lowndes’ second place during his first Bathurst in 1995. Fast and young is a combination rarely seen here.

For his longshot selection, Niall is leaning towards the elderly -- Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst in the second HRT car (I’m not sure Niall is correct, by the way, about Skaife being cross-entered in both HRT Holdens. I think that provision was ditched a few years back). Under previous race regulations I might agree with him, but with the introduction of the safety car the race is now a series of sprints rather than a single endurance event. A faster driver pairing -- although Richards is an impressive eighth -- should win.

(That being said, who isn’t fast these days? The top 38 cars are separated by only 4.6 seconds; in 1978 that was the gap between the fastest qualifier and fifth.)

Let’s see how things look after today’s shootout for pole position. If Lowndes/Seton maintain their pace (currently just five-tenths behind Bowe in the quickest Ford) they will be serious top three candidates (as Niall has already nominated, along with Skaife and Richards). And someone will likely take another few tenths out of Murphy’s record time if the rain holds off.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 11, 2003 02:40 AM

OzEmail Racing Team John Bowe Ford Falcon

I am a road racing fan in the States though I'm not familiar with this series. But.....are you racing like 1963 Ford Falcons?

Posted by: wallace at October 11, 2003 at 08:33 AM

Wallace, these race cars are very loosely based on the road-going versions of our top selling family sedans. So loosely based, the only real similarity is the basic body shape. Absolutely no comparison to 1963 Ford Falcons whatsoever. They are purpose built, pure-bred racing machines capable of just on 300kph and worth just over a half million Oz dollars each.

On another subject, Tim, I read a quote from Skaife earlier in the week, re: cross-entering, so that rule must still be in. I was surprised to read it myself, but there you have it. I suppose if No.1 car fails, No. 2 can always be used in that case.

Posted by: Niall at October 11, 2003 at 11:50 AM

A clarification on cross-entering: apparently teams may swap drivers and cars, but only up until midday today. This is distinct from the cross-entering allowed in the 1980s, which permitted drivers to swap cars during the race -- a tactic which Peter Brock employed to win in 1983.

Posted by: tim at October 11, 2003 at 03:58 PM


Brock won in 83 & 87 in cross-entered cars.

Murphy's shoot-out lap was just breath-taking. He smashed them and thoroughly deserved his victory.

Posted by: Anthony from Chippendale at October 13, 2003 at 09:27 PM