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R11 RACE 1 - OFFICIALS SMILE ON MURPHY AT SURFERS

Cursed Kiwi Greg Murphy is smiling again, unlike a number of his kerb-hopping rivals, as V8 Supercar officials threatened to turn this weekend's first championship run at the Honda Indy into a farce.

Murphy exacted revenge today after his bitter endurance race disappointments, taking out the first 100km showdown on the increasingly slick Surfers Paradise streets.

But race officials decimated the lead pack with a number of drive-through penalties for skipping across Indy's enticing kerbs.

Race contenders Mark Skaife, John Bowe, Brad Jones and Garth Tander each copped the race-destroying penalty. Jason Bargwanna, fifth across the line, and Steven Ellery had 35secs added to their total race time for the same offence.

Champion-elect Skaife was livid as he served his drive-through.

"I absolutely promise you I was nowhere near those cones, there is no way I went over the kerbs," he said after the race.

"We were no worse than any of the others out there. When the guys came on the radio and said you've got a stop-go penalty I thought they were gagging with me."

Many of the plastic cones placed on the outside of the kerbs and used to judge infringements were removed before the race, leaving the decision open to interpretation by individual stewards stationed at each corner.

Ford's Marcos Ambrose, who finished a strong second to Murphy, admitted escaping the stewards' wrath was a matter of good luck over good management.

"I must have god on my side today in regards to the kerbs," he said.

"Most of them were actually missing and the only time you know you are hitting the kerbs is when you hear the sound of the cones. It is very hard to see them when you are racing closely with other cars."

After grabbing pole position with a new-record lap in this morning's Top Ten Shootout, Murphy retained the lead after the pit stop shuffle and, despite a mid-race safety car period, was never headed.

"It is nice to get a result without anything going wrong," he said, improving his chances of finishing runner-up to Skaife in the championship.

"I've been getting pretty good starts all year, and I was confident we could get into the chicane first. The car is pretty good, we'll probably sharpen it up a little bit at the front, but it was getting great drive out of the turns."

Craig Lowndes came close to stealing the race with a fast tyre change, but lost ground when he over-shot a chicane.

"I chose to stop the car so I didn't risk any penalty, I was tempted to just slow down but I decided to stop," he explained. "Our car brakes exceptionally well, and I just tried to push the limits on cold tyres."

Russell Ingall and Jason Bright discovered two V8 Supercars into one chicane doesn't go.

Their dog-fight on the back straight ended in tears; Ingall fired into the concrete and out of the race while Bright battled poor wheel alignment to finish fifth. Ingall's Castrol Commodore sustained major damage down one side and is a doubtful starter for tomorrow's final race.

David Besnard's brand-new Falcon, miraculously prepared for this event after his old car crashed out of Bathurst practice a fortnight ago, also sustained damage and failed to finish after a first-lap tussle with Bowe.

Race one results:
http://www.natsoft.com.au/cgi-bin/results.cgi?27/10/2002.GOLD.Q5

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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