SATURDAY SLEUTHING: MURPHY’S 5-MINUTE COMMODORE

Greg Murphy didn't have a lot of luck in his two Bathurst 1000 starts aboard HRT 046. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

GREG Murphy may have had a magic touch around Mount Panorama, but this week’s edition of Saturday Sleuthing looks at a car that delivered him nothing but heartbreak in his two Bathurst 1000 starts aboard it.

The much-loved Kiwi racer enjoyed plenty of highs in the ‘Great Race’, and his four victories all feature in our new book Racing the Lion: An Illustrated History of Holden in Australian Motorsport, a 400-page hardcover book paying tribute to the marque’s rich competition history spanning over seven decades.

It’s now in stock in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop – click HERE to order!

However, the Mountain has also subjected ‘Murph’ to some tremendous lows.

Two such moments are brought up with regularity come Bathurst each year: the five minute penalty levied to he and Todd Kelly in the 2002 race, and his race-ending tangle with Marcos Ambrose in 2005.

Remarkably, the same chassis was involved in both incidents.

HRT 046 may carry the factory squad’s initials in its chassis number but the car never raced with the Holden Racing Team; instead, this VX Commodore was debuted by Murphy at the sister Kmart Racing squad in 2002.

Murphy campaigned the car for the entire season, taking race wins at Barbagallo and the Gold Coast, plus his second-straight round win on home soil at Pukekohe on the way to claiming second in the championship.

Murphy leads the field back on a late-race restart in the 2002 Queensland 500. He didn’t get much further… Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

He might have been a bit closer to runaway championship victor Mark Skaife had it not been for a dire run through the endurance races for he and teammate Todd Kelly in the #51 Commodore.

Murphy led the Queensland 500 with three laps to go when HRT 046 ran out of fuel, and then a strong run at Bathurst came undone when a communication breakdown saw Murphy waved out of the pits before the refuelling hose was uncoupled, triggering a fuel spill and the biggest in-race penalty in V8 Supercar history.

The door might carry #46, but this is Murphy at a pre-season test at Winton in 2003. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Murphy continued to race the car into the 2003 season – taking another race win at Barbagallo – before passing to new teammate Rick Kelly for Oran Park while Murphy moved into an upgraded VY Commodore.

Kelly raced it for the remainder of the year except for the enduros at Sandown and Bathurst, where former Privateer’s Cup champion Cameron McLean and future multiple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx drove it.

HRT 046 got 2004 off to a good start – Murph put it on pole position for the Adelaide 500! Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

It was then upgraded to VY Commodore specification over the off season and returned to Murphy’s hands for 2004, but the Kiwi switched back to his ‘Lap of the Gods’ chassis after the Hidden Valley round and HRT 046 never raced again in Kmart colours.

READ MORE: Where did the ‘Lap of the Gods’ Commodore come from?

Murphy left the team at the end of the season to join PWR Racing for 2005 – and HRT 046 went with him!

Murphy on the way to his final race win on home soil at Pukekohe in 2005. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

He raced the car for the whole season, taking his final round win at Pukekohe with a clean sweep of all three wins from the weekend, as well as what proved to be the final championship race win of his Supercars career at the Gold Coast.

Infamously, Murphy was driving HRT 046 when he tangled with Marcos Ambrose in the closing stages of the 2005 Bathurst 1000.

Murphy spoke about the incident extensively, plus his time at PWR Racing, on the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Timken in 2020 – listen to his episodes in the players below!

Murphy remained aboard HRT 046 into the 2006 season, but the car required a couple of extensive rebuilds after heavy crashes at the Adelaide 500 and at Pukekohe.

The Kiwi raced the car at all but the endurance races and Symmons Plains round, including HRT 046’s final appearance in the ‘main game’ at the season-ending Phillip Island round.

Murphy aboard HRT 046 for the final time in 2006 at Phillip Island, where he took ninth place in the final race of the season. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

The arrival of the new VZ Commodore saw HRT 046 pushed aside at PWR Racing, who retained the car for several years before selling it to South Australian racer Adam Wallis in 2010.

Now in a plain white livery, Wallis used it in the Adelaide and Bathurst rounds of the Fujitsu Series and then ran it again in Adelaide in 2011 before selling it mid-year to fellow South Aussie Ian Yeing, who still retains the car as the 2020 edition of the ‘Great Race’ looms.

Yeing campaigned the car in a distinctive silver and orange livery through the 2012 Kumho Tyre V8 Touring Car Series, before returning the car to its 2005 Supercheap Auto livery in time for the 2013 season.

Murphy was reunited with the car in 2013 after its return to Supercheap Auto colours. Pic: an1images.com

Another driver to pilot the car in recent years is V8 Utes regular Craig Dontas, who raced it in the opening round of the 2014 Kumho Series, while the late Luke Spalding cut his first laps in a V8 Supercar aboard HRT 046 in a Kumho Series practice session at Winton in 2015 during his Australian Formula 3 National Class-winning season.

The car returned to Mount Panorama in October 2019 for the annual car display in the Bathurst 1000 paddock and was on hand for Murphy’s induction into Bathurst’s Legends Lane.

Will Dale is V8 Sleuth's Head of Content - Digital. He began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.