Australia: Trofeo Motorsport claim podium at Round 5
V8 Supercar endurance driver and former Bathurst champion Greg Murphy rejoined the Trofeo Motorsport team for the penultimate round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, earning himself some more valuable miles ahead of his home round at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand in November. Originally slated to join car-owner Jim Manolios behind the wheel of the 2009 French GT Championship [FFSA] winning Corvette Z06.R, Murphy went it alone after Manolios withdrew after practice to concentrate on his role as the official tyre supplier to the series through Trofeo Motorsport.
“With our commitment to Australian GT and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, we had a very big weekend ahead of us, but we had also made a commitment to the series as a team, so after missing a couple of events this year due to overseas commitments, I was keen to have the car in the field,” Manolios admitted. “The contact with John Bowe in session two of practice didn’t help..” Whilst Murphy set a stunning lap in the Corvette in the opening session, Manolios was behind the wheel in session two, and just warming the car up ahead of some quick laps when he was hit from behind by John Bowe into turn one, the Ferrari driver on a hot lap.
Contact was enough to end the session for both teams, with the Bowe Ferrari coming off second best. “I was just doing a systems check and getting ready for some quick laps and next thing I know I have a Ferrari in my boot,” Jim admitted with disappointment. Damage to the Corvette was light and Murphy lined up for qualifying without too great an expectation.
“All around us we have some pretty impressive machines,” he admitted. “They have a number of generations of development over and above what the Corvette has, but that won’t deter us too much. My biggest concern is the driver parity penalty I have during the pit stops, that will really kill us, but till then I’ll make a nuisance of myself and see what happens.” Murphy qualified the Corvette in fifth place, behind a 2012-spec Lamborghini and three 2013-spec cars; Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche GT3-R and Ferrari 458 Italia.
Jumped off the start of the opening race by the Audi of Liam Talbot, Murphy was quickly back onto the tail of the leaders and pushing John Bowe hard. Glued to the tail of the Ferrari, he was unable to effect a pass ahead of the compulsory pit stop [CPS] where he was forced to stop for a interminably long 88 seconds, 12-seconds longer than Bowe by virtue of his status as a ‘Pro’ driver.
Rejoining well back from Bowe, he pushed hard to close the gap, and was gifted a position towards the end of the race after race leader Roger Lago was given a drive-through penalty for a pit-lane infringement. “That was all we had,” he shrugged afterwards. “There was not much more, so the best we can hope for is a Safety Car to close up the field and limit the damage from my pit stop penalty, otherwise it’s going to be a long weekend..!”
Off the second row for race two, in the darkness of night, Murphy used all his experience and courage to charge through to second on the opening lap, shadowing race leader Tony Quinn. Klark Quinn soon forced his way past the Corvette and through to the lead, opening up a three second lead before the CPS where Murphy expected to again lose out to the leaders, but this time, fate intervened..
As the CPS window opened, Steve McLaughlan stopped on the circuit forcing the Safety Car to be called as officials retrieved the stricken Viper. This bunched the field up, all but negating Murphy’s penalty, the New Zealander rejoining the line immediately behind Tony Quinn. As the field sorted itself out, those in front of race leader Klark Quinn were waved around, including Tony Quinn and Murphy. Now at the rear of the field and fighting over second, they stormed off the restart, often three wide as they threaded their way through the field.
Murphy was trying everything he knew to get past the big V12 Vantage, but Tony Quinn wasn’t going to make his job easy. Ultimately Murphy prevailed, diving down the outside of the Lusty Mosler into the final turn as Quinn went around the inside. The braking duel saw the two going into the corner side-by-side, Murphy finally making it stick to take away the position and set off in pursuit of Klark Quinn. In the end the lead was too great, Murphy though pulling him in by almost second a lap over the final six laps to close to within eight seconds at the flag.
“That was fun, but bloody hard work,” he admitted post-race. “The Safety Car helped, but from that far back on the restart I was never going to catch him, but Tony certainly made it interesting.” Off the front row for the start of the final race, Murphy knew he had one chance to blast past the Porsche on the way into turn one, and he pulled it off, out-powering the GT3-R to take the lead, before pulling across to take the apex of the corner.
Behind him Tony and Klark Quinn battled over second as Murphy put his head down to get away from the chasing pack. Despite at one point eking out a lead of three or four car lengths, Tony Quinn managed to work his way onto the tail of the Corvette and through on lap nine, holding Murphy at bay until the pit stops. After leading again for a lap after Tony Quinn’s CPS, Murphy stopped, this time for a soul destroying 92 seconds, the Trofeo Corvette emerging between the Audis of Salmon and Koutsoumidis.
Desperate to get back through and in pursuit of the Quinns, Murphy charged again, catching Salmon quickly, but he almost lost any chance of a podium result as he went three wide through the dirt at turn three as Salmon dived inside the Jinadasa Lamborghini forcing Murphy to take the outside line. Once he’d gathered it up he was quickly through on Salmon for third, before settling into a comfortable rhythm ahead of the flag, with the deficit to Klark Quinn far too big to traverse, so it was with some surprise that he saw the stationary Aston on the run down to the final turn on the last lap, elevating him to second again at the finish.
“Against our time penalty, and with the older-spec car - something which isn’t new news, we knew that at Bathurst - we did pretty well all things considered. “I love driving the Corvette, with all that horsepower and the big aero, it would just be nice to have a few of the more modern driving aids like paddle-shift to take the fight to the newer cars, but overall, I’m happy with the weekend, and thankful to the Trofeo team for giving me a chance to have another run.”
For the Trofeo team the focus turns now to the final round of the championship at Highlands Motorsport Park (November 8-10), where Murphy will once again join car owner Jim Manolios for the two 40-minute races and the inaugural Highlands 101.