No winning send off for Shane van Gisbergen
Shane van Gisbergen and Greg Murphy smiled as they walked side by side, but unfortunately the journey was to pit lane - not the podium - as the New Zealand duo's V8 Supercar futures lurched to the crossroads at Sydney Olympic Park yesterday.
Van Gisbergen's farewell to the championship he was predicted to ultimately win provided ample evidence as to why the talented 23-year-old Aucklander is apparently disillusioned with motorsport.
As if an opening lap crash wasn't frustrating enough in the first leg of the Telstra 500 on Saturday, yesterday mechanical failure parked his Falcon on a straight about the same distance into the final showdown between Ford and Holden.
Those setbacks - including Saturday's comical collision with a medical chase car - saw him drop to sixth place on the standings - the first time he has failed to improve his overall placing since debuting with Team Kiwi Racing in 2007.
Van Gisbergen has not spoken at length about his decision to quit Stone Brothers Racing after re-committing to the Gold Coast-based Kiwi-founded team until the end of 2015 in May.
His rumoured career change was confirmed via a media statement on November 22 which cited "personal reasons" for his impending move back to New Zealand though conspiracy theories abound.
Van Gisbergen was said to be unhappy SBR had switched manufacturer from Ford to newcomer Mercedes Benz and joined forces with Erebus Motorsport after he re-signed, a claim he denied before insisting he did not want to drive for a rival team.
There was no elaboration at the weekend, the topic was off limits so van Gisbergen only spoke of accelerated demise and sadness at leaving SBR.
"I had to get my sunglasses on before," he said, after tearing up when his support drew scrawled messages on his bonnet.
"It was pretty cool to have everyone sign it. We were all pretty excited to go out there for the last race. Unfortunately something broke, I think it was the diff, on the first lap so we never had a chance.
"It was a pretty average weekend, two DNFs. I'm pretty gutted," he said, adding: "I've had a great time here with SBR and I have fond memories of this place.
"That's the end of my time in V8 Supercars but hopefully I'll catch up with everyone again soon."
His release from SBR was contingent, according to Speedtv.com, on a one-year no compete clause so was that a cryptic message that he would be back in 2014?
Van Gisbergen, of course, wouldn't comment, though his father Robert said more would be revealed about his son's departure early next year.
Murphy, meanwhile, was philosophical at the end of the Holden devotee's worst season since he joined the old Australian Touring Car Championship in 1997.
Blighted by a back injury, a set-up that was never on the pace and horrendous luck when he made it to the start line, the 40 year-old also failed to finish both races due to steering failure and a prang.
"I've got a sore head, but anyway," he shrugged after his last lap with Kelly Racing.
Murphy is yet to secure a team for 2013 and the four-time Bathurst winner was fairly laidback despite finishing as the last fulltime driver.
"There are a few things up in the air with a few teams. There will be the enduros and bits and pieces if nothing else," he said, before apologising to his sponsors.
"It's been a miserable 2012, it hasn't been a good year."
With that Murphy playfully booted a door of his cursed vehicle - no matter, the damage was already done.