The Prince of Pukekohe, Greg Murphy, predicts bright things from New Zealand’s V8 Supercars contingent in the very near future.
Not since the legendary Jim Richards, who conquered the category four times in the 1980s and 1990s, has New Zealand produced a series champion.
While the championship is at the track he’s dominated like no other, Murphy says the Kiwi contingent of Scott McLaughlin, Shane Van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard – supported by debutant Andre Heimgartner – are poised to end the drought.
“We have three guys who are world class doing us proud and performing at the highest level and can genuinely win races,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“Next year is going to be better, with the guys being genuine contenders to win a championship.”
All three finished in the top eight last season, with Van Gisbergen taking second place, hauling in Mark Winterbottom, with a strong showing in the season-ending Sydney meet.
While McLaughlin has gone backwards – he currently sits 11th in the championship after a break-out 2014 when he finished fifth – all have reasons to be brighter about next season.
Murphy said with Van Gisbergen’s move to a three-garage Red Bull Racing team and Fabian swapping manufacturers to the well-resourced DJR Team Penske, anything was possible
“At the moment I don’t realistically see that just because of the environments they are in compared to who is winning races and challenging for the title.
“(But) we are now in good shape to have a real promise of winning the championship in however many years it’s been.”
Murphy won nine races at Pukekohe across five dominant years, when McLaughlin was yet to reach his teenage years.
The Christchurch-born 22-year-old, who took home third place in Saturday’s manic second race, said the praise was special.
“It’s cool to hear that from Murph, he’s a big hero of mine, someone I’ve looked up to,” McLaughlin said.
“I think (a title run) is realistic, our speed is there, we just need to be a bit more consistent.
“I’ll just go round, do my business, drive the car as fast as I can and one day it might happen, one day it might not.”
NEW ZEALAND’S V8 SUPERCARS CONTINGENT:
SHANE VAN GISBERGEN
2015 team: Tekno Autosports (Holden)
2015 standings to date: Fifth – 2185 points
2015 Auckland 500 race results: Sixth and Fifth
2016 team: Red Bull Racing (Holden)
2015 team: Garry Rogers Motorsport (Volvo)
2015 standings to date: 11th – 1684
2015 Auckland 500 race results: Ninth and Third
2016 team: Garry Rogers Motorsport (Volvo)
Birthplace: Burnley, England – raised in Auckland
2015 team: Brad Jones Racing (Holden)
2015 standings to date: Sixth – 2156
2015 Auckland 500 race result: 23rd and Ninth
2016 team: DJR Team Penske (Ford)