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Murphy on top of the mountain: again

Release Date: 08/10/2004
Greg Murphy experienced a sense of déjà vu as he took a firm grip on the 2004 Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 1000 at the great Mount Panorama today.

Murphy led qualifying for the second year in a row to lead a Top 10 shootout tomorrow that doesn’t include either Holden Racing Team car after mechanical failure took Mark Skaife out of the running mid-way through the qualifying session.

Murphy was hunted all the way to the line by championship contenders Jason Bright and Steve Richards, with current series leader Marcos Ambrose giving himself a shot at pole position having snuck into tenth after some anxious car dramas in the past days.

“I’m really happy,” Murphy said. “This year has been a bit like last year, we were trying pretty hard out there and I was expecting the time to be quicker than that. It doesn’t have the turn-in and grip of last year, so we’ve still got a bit of work to do to get it to one hundred percent.

“(Peter) Brock said to have a go, and enjoy life… so we will. I don’t know where we can find 1.2 seconds, but we will have a crack at it.”

Murphy smashed the qualifying record in the top 10 Shootout last year with an amazing 2m06.8954s lap, today his best 2m08.0940s and headed the field by just 0.03 seconds.

Bright was second quickest in his PWR Racing Commodore, recording a series of laps in the low 2m08s bracket, but not quite matching Murphy’s pace down Conrod Straight.

“It’s been a reasonable weekend, we were probably struggling a little bit in practice but it good now,” Bright said. “We’ve been fortunate to have a pretty good car for this year, and thankfully this race is no different.

“We haven’t had a good shootout car, but this lap is longer so we can better heat into the tyres. It would be nice to get a pole after making every shootout.”

Bright sits second in the 2004 V8 Supercar Championship Series, 23 points behind Ambrose and 67 points in front of Richards who qualified third in the car he is sharing with his father, seven-time Bathurst winner Jim.

“We’ve had a good weekend so far, everything has gone to plan,” Steve said. “We’ve been trying to give dad some laps in the car, and he is into the low-10s which is great. This race is about the team and not the lead driver, so we are going well.

“We’re sharing a nice moment together, but we are a long way from the chequered flag. We don’t think this is a dad and Dave show, we snaffled him early because we thought he was the best man for the job.

“There is four races to go in the championship and you still have to finish in the points, and I’ve got to finish in front of Jason and Marcos too. But the finish line is only a short way from the last corner, and I reckon you could get it over the line on two wheels.”

Craig Lowndes was fourth in his and Glenn Seton’s last Bathurst for Ford Performance Racing, and is hoping to put a shocking season behind with him at least a repeat of last year’s podium.

“We’ve had some issues during the season, and we’ve rectified most of them,” Lowndes said.

“One of those was the engines, and Rod Benson (the team’s new engine builder) has done a lot with that already.”
Russell Ingall was fifth fastest after an incident packed day, co-driver Cameron McLean crashing the Caltex Falcon quite heavily in the morning session.

“I am extremely grateful to the SBR team, it was looking pretty second hand when it cam up pitlane, I think it was pushed back to the roofline,” Ingall said. “The guys were pretty confident, they said it was perfect and to go hard.

“Today was on the door handles, you can cruise around in the 9s, but it is amazing how hard you’ve got to push to get into the 8s. I think that is the fastest I have ever gone here, and it feels good. I’d rather have my dramas today than Sunday.”

Mark Skaife was way down in 18th spot after the rear suspension on his HRT car broke during the qualifying session, and with Peter Brock qualifying in only 26th spot there will no HRT car in the shootout for the second time this year.

All cars qualified for the race, and the Adam Macrow/Alain Menu FPR Falcon was excluded from the results after missing a weigh-in.

The only serious damage for the day – aside from Ingall – was Matt White who crashed the second PWR Racing Commodore in the esses on the last lap of qualifying.

Today’s crowd was 35,433, which with yesterday’s crowd of 30,274 has the race well on target to better last year’s 158.382 four-day crowd. There is one more practice session tomorrow morning before the Shootout in the afternoon, and the big race on Sunday at 10am.

Bathurst 1000 – Qualifying Top 10

1. Greg Murphy/Rick Kelly Kmart Commodore 2m08.0940s
2. Jason Bright/Paul Weel PWR Racing Falcon 2m08.1283s
3. Steve Richards/Jim Richards Castrol Perkins Commodore 2m08.1363s
4. Craig Lowndes/Glenn Seton CAT FPR Falcon 2m08.3637s
5. Russell Ingall/Cameron McLean Caltex SBR Falcon 2m08.4064s
6. Paul Morris/Allan Gurr Sirromet Wines Commodore 2m08.4906s
7. Jason Bargwanna/Mark Winterbottom Orrcon Steel Falcon 2m08.4963s
8. John Bowe/Brad Jones OzEmail Falcon 2m08.5197s
9. Paul Dumbrell/Tony Longhurst Castrol Perkins Commodore 2m08.5285s
10. Marcos Ambrose/Greg Ritter Pirtek SBR Falcon 2m08.5736s