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Greg Murphy is the target in BNT V8 SuperTourers

Ant Pedersen has his sights trained firmly on Greg Murphy for the BNT V8 SuperTourers races at Manfeild’s New Zealand Grand Prix meeting this weekend.

The 25-year-old Hamilton accountant, who was just pipped by Murphy for the 2013 championship, needs to start beating the defending champion after car troubles cost him vital points in the first round at the new Highlands circuit last month.

“We need to win, he’s slipping away from us,” Pedersen said as he prepared for round two, The Sound 250. “We’re going to try hard and race hard – but he will too, and the others.”

At Highlands, near Cromwell in Central Otago, Pedersen had to sit cooling his heels in the pits for the opening laps of the final race while the team fixed a steering problem on his Ford Falcon. Then he rocketed out and set the fastest lap of the race, but Murphy won all three races in his Holden Commodore.

“We found a few other things in the car that were not quite right, other than the steering, and we fixed those,” Pedersen said. But with placings of third, fourth and 10th he found himself fourth in the standings, 99 points behind Murphy.

With the car improved now, he is aiming to repeat his stellar form of last year.

Meanwhile young Aucklander Andre Heimgartner is reaping the rewards of a new approach to racing and he stands second on points after scoring two seconds and a fourth at Highlands, and pushing Murphy hard at times.

“I had a think about how I drive and how I can improve, some little things that add up,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of improvement in my fitness and my general concentration.

“Now I’m thinking about the championship, adding up the points rather than just going balls-out to pass the dude in front. I think before a race what I’m aiming to achieve, rather than just going out and driving.”

Like Pedersen, Aucklander Tim Edgell is looking for an improvement after car problems caused disappointing results at the first round.

“We had a steering-rack issue and we found the front shock absorbers were not working properly,” Edgell, a race-winner last year, said. “We’ve fixed that and Manfeild is my best track so we’re hoping to be more competitive this weekend.”

Edgell and other drivers said they were looking forward to the special atmosphere and big crowds of the Grand Prix meeting. “There’s good viewing areas at Manfeild; it’s like an amphitheatre,” he said.

The chief executive of BNT V8 SuperTourers, Ray Noonan, said he was delighted his series was appearing at the prestigious Grand Prix meeting for the first time.

“It brings together the two top categories, the BNT V8 SuperTourers and the Toyota Racing Series, and I think that represents a real maturing of motorsport in New Zealand,” he said.

The meeting also sees the first appearance of Aucklander Chris Hanley, 23, who replaces the unavailable Craig Baird in Garry Pedersen’s Falcon. Pedersen said Hanley, the 2013 V8 Utes champion, had gone very well in testing at Taupo: "Chris is naturally very quick,” he said. “He pushed the car really, really hard.”

Meanwhile Australian Tim Blanchard, who raced in V8 Supercars for Dick Johnson Racing in 2013, appears set to appear in the championship soon. International Motorsport team chief Lyall Williamson said negotiations were well advanced for Blanchard to join his team from the Hankook Super Series meeting at Pukekohe next month as team-mate to Pedersen.

The BNT V8 SuperTourers have qualifying and one race on Saturday, and two races on Sunday.

Photos by Andrew Bright

ENDS

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