Baird first, Murphy second at Highlands 101 endurance race
New Zealanders have finished first and second at the 2016 Highlands 101 endurance race in Cromwell, the final round of the Australian GT Endurance Championship.
Former Supercars Championship sparring partners Craig Baird and Greg Murphy found themselves dicing for the lead of the race in the closing stages, after a late caution compressed the field.
But despite Murphy's best efforts, which included lowering the lap record twice, Baird and stand-in co-driver Michael Almond prevailed.
“[Michael] did exactly what he had to do, which makes a difference when you've got somebody that you can rely on,” said Baird.
The win was redemption for the former Carrera Cup champion, who two-years prior stared down the barrel at a Highlands 101 victory with Richard Muscat only for his teammate to run out of fuel and coast to a stop just a few hundred meters from the chequered flag.
“We weren't even close on the fuel number, and we had a slight engine problem [in 2014]. We ended up using more throttle percentage for the last bit of the race, and that's what cut us.”
For Murphy in second, co-driver to circuit owner Tony Quinn, the win only looked within reach after a caution occurred with 23 laps to go.
(from left) Tony Quinn and Greg Murphy, winners Craig Baird and Michael Almond, and Andrew Miedecke and George Miedecke
“When I first went out I was sort of in no-mans land, and not really chasing anybody and not really worrying about anybody. So I decided to take it easy and not use the car up, and just wait for something to happen. It normally does, and it did when that safety car came,” Murphy said to Driven.co.nz.
“It sorted us all out on where we were and what we needed to be doing. Then it was basically on from there.
“The car felt really good, it was just about managing stuff. And when George [Miedecke] was right behind and Bairdo was in front, it was ‘well, let's see what happens.’”
“The car responded, and it was a lot of fun. I had a ball.”
Despite today's stand-out result, Murphy hasn't considered a return to circuit racing on a more regular basis.
“Nothing's changed,” he said.
“Doing a couple of GT races is good fun, and I'm lucky to have the chance with Tony [Quinn] to do it.
“We'll just see how it plays; maybe there will be a few more at some stage, I don't know. I'm not focused on doing more racing on a regular basis, it's just what I like to do.”
Family squad Andrew and George Miedecke rounded out the podium in their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [pictured above], ahead of the combinations of Stephen McLaughlan/Garth Tander and Peter Hackett/Dominic Storey.
New Zealander Storey was poised to potentially win the Australian GT Endurance Championship title as series leaders Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom had mechanical issues mid-race in their Tekno Autosports McLaren 650S.
However the Tekno McLaren was able to hold together and take the chequered flag in eighth place and win the title.
They finished one place ahead of Trass Family Motorsport's Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd. They and their Ferrari 458 GT3, complete with war wounds, was the first New Zealand team team home — a result particularly appreciated after the team failed to make the grid at the Hampton Downs 101.
1. Craig Baird/Michael Almond (Mercedes-AMG GT3) 2. Greg Murphy/Tony Quinn (Aston Martin Vantage GT3) 3. Andrew Miedecke/George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3) 4. Stephen McLaughlan/Garth Tander (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 5. Peter Hackett/Dominic Storey (Mercedes-AMG GT3) 6. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo GT3) 7. Adrian Dietz/Cameron McConville (Ferrari 458 GT3) 8. Grant Denyer/Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3) 9. Sam Fillmore/Danny Stutterd (Ferrari 458 GT3) 10. Andrew Macpherson/Brad Shiels (Porsche 911 GT3-R)