WHERE DID THE ‘LAP OF THE GODS’ CAR COME FROM?

Greg Murphy on his Lap of the Gods, 2003 Bathurst 1000 Top 10 Shootout
Murphy charges into Murray's Corner at the end of his Lap of the Gods, Bathurst 2003. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

THE Supercars chassis named HRT 043 is best known for a single lap.

You know the one I’m talking about: the ‘Lap of the Gods’, Greg Murphy’s remarkable 2-minute 06.8594-second tour of Mount Panorama during the Top 10 Shootout for the Bathurst 1000 in 2003, the first ‘six’ by a V8 Supercar around the hallowed circuit coming just one day after the first ‘seven’.

Murphy and Kmart Racing teammate Rick Kelly went on to win the race the next day, a triumph covered in our upcoming limited-edition book Racing the Lion, a 400-page illustrated history of Holden in motorsport.

Packed with photos never before published, it’s the perfect collector’s piece and can be pre-ordered here.

However, this car had already amassed an impressive competitive history before it passed into Murphy’s hands.

Like most of the cars used by Kmart Racing, HRT 043 – as its chassis number suggests – started life with sister squad the Holden Racing Team.

In fact, it’s the very car responsible for Craig Lowndes’ final victory for the team before he left HRT at the end of the 2000 season.

Craig Lowndes in his Holden Racing Team Commodore VT at Oran Park Raceway, 2000 Shell Championship Series, V8 Supercars
Craig Lowndes aboard HRT 043 at Oran Park in 2000. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

The car was built new for Lowndes in the middle of the 2000 season and christened with a clean sweep of pole position and all three race wins at Queensland Raceway.

Lowndes was unbeaten at the circuit that year; he and teammate Mark Skaife paired up to win the Queensland 500 aboard HRT 043, the 49th and last race victory for Lowndes at the factory Holden squad.

They paired again in this car for Bathurst, where a sixth place finish was enough for Skaife to clinch his first championship win with HRT.

Mark Skaife, 2001 Clipsal 500 Adelaide, V8 Supercars
Mark Skaife piloted HRT 043 in the first half of the 2001 Shell Championship Series. Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

Skaife retained the car for the 2001 season, laying the foundations for his second successive title with round wins at Phillip Island, Eastern Creek and Oran Park before moving into a new car – the chassis that became known as ‘Golden Child’ – for the remainder of the championship, although he piloted HRT 043 one last time at the non-points Gold Coast races.

The car’s next outing came with a driver who’d achieve a major success with the car in the years to come: Rick Kelly.

The younger Kelly brother, fresh from his first V8 Supercars races at the Queensland 500 and Bathurst 1000, drove this car as a HRT-run Holden Young Lions entry in the season finale at Sandown, marking his first solo championship start.

Rick Kelly, 2001 V8 Ultimate, Sandown, V8 Supercars
Rick Kelly in the Monaro-themed Holden Young Lions at Sandown in 2001. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

2002 saw HRT 043 play a double role, serving as HRT’s spare car – its only race appearance came with Jason Bright at the first points-paying Gold Coast round – while also carrying out aero testing for the upcoming VY model Commodore.

At the start of 2003 the car returned to a race role at HRT for Todd Kelly’s debut season at the factory squad, fully converted to VY Commodore specifications with double-wishbone front suspension but running the old Chevrolet 18-degree V8 engine rather than the new ‘Holden Motorsport’ engine.

Todd Kelly, 2003 Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park.
HRT 043 sits damaged as it’s passed by its future pilot, 2003 Albert Park. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

His time at HRT got off to a bruising start, however, becoming the victim of a lap one, turn one multi-car crash at Albert Park in his first race with the team.

Kelly campaigned the car for the first half of the 2003 season until a savage crash in the final race of the Hidden Valley round destroyed the right-hand side and front suspension, and further evaluation back at the workshop showed the damage to be worse than initially expected.

All bar three panels were beyond repair, three of the four chassis rails were broken, the  floor creased and the rear suspension broken, not to mention a damaged roll cage as well as rear axle and diff housing.

HRT 043 departing Hidden Valley on a flatbed, the last time it was seen in Holden Racing Team colours. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

The repair bill was reportedly close to $100,000, and the car was indeed fixed, but not for Todd.

Instead, the chassis was passed to Kmart Racing as its first VY Commodore.

Murphy’s first race in the car didn’t exactly point to the iconic moment of Supercars history that lay just two months ahead.

The Kiwi raced HRT 043 for the first time at Oran Park round where, although he qualified on the front row, Murphy finished a distant – and lapped – 11th.

Greg Murphy, 2003 Oran Park
Murphy hustles through Suttons Corner at Oran Park in his first race aboard HRT 043. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Sandown was next, where he and Rick Kelly raced to third place in a dramatic, rain and hail-hit race, before Murphy and HRT 043’s date with Mount Panorama.

Murphy raced the car for the remainder of 2003 – capturing one of his four Pukekohe round wins aboard it – but initially swapped to a new car for 2004.

However, Murphy swapped back into HRT 043 for all but the endurance races and the finale at Eastern Creek, where the car had its final ‘main game’ appearance in teammate Kelly’s hands.

After several years on the sidelines, the ‘Lap of the Gods’ car returned to racing with Tony Bates in the 2008 and 2009 Fujitsu Series, before being faithfully restored to its 2003 Bathurst 1000 condition.

Will Dale 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 for the next six years, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.