2003 Bob Jane T-Marts Bathurst 1000 Winner
Greg Murphy/Rick Kelly #51 Kmart Racing Holden Commodore VY Chassis – HRT 043
The 2003 Great Race winner will live in the history books as the car dubbed the machine which completed the ‘Lap of the Gods’, a title that even its pilot Greg Murphy is somewhat uncomfortable with.
Originally a Holden Racing Team VT Commodore built in 2000 for Craig Lowndes (and driven that year at Bathurst by he and Mark Skaife to sixth place and thus sealing the first of Skaife’s three straight titles with HRT), this car would be better known for its achievements in white paint than red.
It was upgraded to VX spec and again driven by Skaife in 2001 before he debuted HRT 045 (another car with a nickname, ‘Golden Child’) at that year’s Queensland 500 with 043 becoming a spare used at the non-championship Gold Coast Indy event and at Sandown as a Young Lions car with a very young Rick Kelly on-board.
It remained a spare in 2002 but was returned to action in 2003 for new HRT signing Todd Kelly.
Updated to VY ‘Project Blueprint’ specification with double wishbone front suspension, it retained the existing 18-degree Chev instead of the new-spec powerplant.
Kelly ran it for the first half of the season before it was damaged in a crash in Darwin and it was fully stripped and rebuilt, re-appearing in Greg Murphy’s hands at Oran Park as the #51 Kmart car and the first VY the Kmart team had got their hands on.
He and Rick Kelly finished third at the Sandown 500 and the history books completely tell the story of its Bathurst assault – pole position in a jaw-dropping 2m 06.8594s, 120 laps of 161 led and a popular victory at the end of the day, righting the wrongs of the previous year’s infamous five-minute penalty given for a fuel spill in pit lane.
Murphy took 043 to another round victory at Pukekohe and finished off the season aboard her before she became a Kmart spare in 2004.
But after a frustrating season, the Kiwi was back in the car from Barbagallo onwards in a bid to find race-winning form.
It became the second team car for Sandown and Bathurst with Tim Leahey and Steve Owen driving before Murphy won the Gold Coast round (featuring the Spider-Man 2 livery created by a team including this story’s author!) and Rick Kelly finished the year in 043 at Eastern Creek due to a car swap between the teammates for the last round of the series.
Retained but not used as a spare chassis for a few years, it was sold to Commodore Cup driver Tony Bates who raced it in the Dunlop Series in 2008 and 2009 before being sold to collector John Anderson.
Queensland-based Anderson engaged exDencar man George Smith and ex-HRT new car build chief Rick Wyatt – who originally built it back in 2000 – to restore it completely to its 2003 Bathurst-winning spec, including removing bars added later in its life, to ensure originality.
Completed in 2012 the car was used as part of the filming for Channel Seven’s opening to that year’s Bathurst telecast and was driven by Murphy at the Mountain that year with some demo laps.
“It’s better than a brand new car when it was first built back in the day!” he said at the time. “It’s very, very nice.”