The Holden invite said, ‘Join us at Pukekohe racetrack for a light lunch followed by hot laps in the Commodore VXR with Greg Murphy and Tom Alexander, Plus a meet and greet with Jamie Whincup.’ It was an action-packed event but if I’m honest, they had me at free lunch!
For those that are unaware, Pukekohe racetrack is around half an hour or so south of Auckland and has been ‘home’ to the V8s in NZ since, well, forever. The track itself is fast and tight, with little room for error and now has a chicane down the notorious back straight just to keep you on your toes – it’s a driver’s track and one of the Supercar pilot’s favourites (I guess Bathurst would take pole position).
As eager as ever, I arrived a little early and watched as they tested the track with the new Commodore VRX and a couple of other brands that I dare not mention. Tyre squeals aside, the 4-door saloons looked quick and sleek as they ran down the home straight and passed over the grid markings, it would be my turn soon.
Sports TV show filming was in full flow as I crossed over the bridge with Rugby legend and Holden ambassador Mils Muliaina already hamming it up for awaiting audience, he really is a funny guy.
Being first evidently has its merits, as I was immediately handed a helmet to go hot lapping with racing car driver Tom Alexander. Let the games begin. Heading along pit lane in a car that you know is set up for the road (and not the track) is a little unnerving, to say the least. This was a ‘standard’ VXR on 20” feet and road legal rubber, an out of the box/showroom car with a racing driver behind the wheel on an unforgiving track – my emotions were, let’s say, mixed.
Foot down, the 3.6L V6 gets up in speed quickly, Tom was stretching its legs, all 235kW/381Nm of them. I’m aware of the vehicles capabilities and I’m aware that it’s adaptive AWD, it has FlexRide adaptive suspension and I’m aware that it has Brembo Brakes BUT, I’m also aware that it’s not a track car. It has heated seats, a Bose stereo an electric sunroof AND I’m also aware that we’re already going over 170km/h heading towards the new chicane – Still, Tom is cool and chatty so I should be too!
We somehow get around the bends, and at the blink of an eye we’re heading down the home straight, the speedo needle hits 189km/h. I have no idea what gear we’re in as Tom has just left it in Auto, he’s not even bothering to use the paddles!
Needless to say, Car, driver and more importantly, the passenger (me) survived the ordeal. In truth it was a breeze, the V6 sounded great and the speed was thrilling. Although the light lunch was welcomed by my yet to settle tummy.
As we ate, Greg ‘the Murph’ Murphy, interviewed (or was that tormented) the Aussie Holden racecar driver Jamie Whincup. Although there was plenty of jibes, the banter was as light ‘hearted’ as the lunch and good to hear racing stories being traded as well as information being gleaned (such as the V8s are to be held on ANZAC day next year).
With frivolities almost at an end, there was one last chance for another couple of hot laps in the VXR, this time with Murph behind the wheel (I did offer to drive but nothing doing). He was as casual as expected, regardless of the speeds we were hitting and we spent most of the (short) time discussing speed limit restrictions and the Holden ‘Street Smart’ program for which he is the ambassador – it may seem rather ironic as we raced around the track but that’s exactly the point, right speeds, safety, training and experience for every situation.
Lunch, Banter, Sports stars and Hot Laps – thanks for the experience Holden!