GREG MURPHY IS RELISHING HIS ROLE ON SKY TV’S MOTORSPORT PROGRAMME
Following a subdued retirement from circuit racing, four-time Bathurst 1000 champion Greg Murphy is now enjoying dual media roles on both sides of the Tasman.
But winding back the clock to 2012, things were very different for the driver. And after a particularly lean and difficult season, compounded by lingering back issues and the sport's change in direction, his 15th season in the V8 Supercars championship was to be his last.
“It was a very unenjoyable sort of season; we were nowhere, and there was no focus on the cars that we were running because the team [Kelly Racing] were making a change in 2013 to Nissan and Car of the Future. So there was no money spent, and you just cannot do your job when people are still accelerating away and you’re still stagnant, or actually going backwards,” Murphy told Driven.
“I had my back problem I missed a whole lot of races, and the cars were terrible — we were lucky to finish a race in the last quarter of the season.
“It ended up not being me making the decision to stop; it was made for me, and I didn’t like that at the time at all. Because I wanted to be in control, and I wasn’t.”
Murphy's exit from full-time competition was made without the sense of ceremony that had surrounded the retirements of drivers like Peter Brock and Mark Skaife before him, but that element was something he didn’t miss.
Greg Murphy racing at Manfeild in 2014. He is enjoying bringing motorsport to a wider audience.Picture / Supplied
“I’m not one for pomp and ceremony much, we just went and disappeared,” he said.
“And to be honest I hadn’t announced anything or made a big deal out of anything, and I certainly didn’t want to, but pretty much everyone knew what was going on. I certainly don’t fit into the category of Brock and Skaife as an Australian icon, as far as [their] history in the sport and what they achieved.”
Murphy then inked a deal to co-drive for James Courtney at the Holden Racing Team for 2013 — 14. However despite the pair proving to be one of the quickest on the grid, the move was plagued by incident and bad luck — underlined by a suspension failure on the Gold Coast that cost them a victory, and Murphy’s heavy crash at Bathurst in 2013.
“That [crash] frustrated me, because I felt like I wasn’t doing the job that I was needing to, but we were also struggling with the car in that first year of Car of the Future,” he said. “[Courtney and I] got a lot closer when we started working together, and we enjoyed each other’s company. It’s nice to be able to have that in a sport that’s so cut-throat and so harsh, it’s not often that you have the opportunity to work with someone that you really enjoy working with.”
In more recent times, Murphy has bolstered his media commitments with appearances in rallying — most recently in last weekend’s Westland Rally.
But don’t expect him to make touring-car cameos under a similar capacity. “It’s nice to be able to do some of these things, and to do it purely for the absolute enjoyment that it was all about right back at the beginning. When you’re putting the effort in and it’s not happening, and your job’s on the line, and the pressure’s on because the sponsors aren’t happy, that’s not fun.
“But that’s the reality of it, that’s the professional world you live in.”
Having moved on to small-screen work on both sides of the Tasman — working for Fox Sports in Australia as a commentator and analyst for the V8 Supercars, and hosting New Zealand’s only weekly magazine-style motorsport show alongside Stephen McIvor, Skyspeed — “Murph” has no regrets about his exit from racing.
“There are certainly no regrets, now. I didn’t have any then — it was more about disappointment than regret. But now, having made the switch and move back to New Zealand, I’m really enjoying all the things that I’m doing. Where we are now compared to where we were then, I’m pretty sure the wife’s a lot happier. There’s nowhere near enough stress as in those last few years.”
“Skyspeed has a great little team, [ ... ] and we have a ball just seeing such cool stuff out there and getting to explore the hidden sides of cars and a bit of the sport within New Zealand.
“The participation is just incredible. It seriously blows us away. After being involved with cars and the sport for so long, it still is hard to comprehend sometimes the amount of participation in this country.
“We’ve been to Leadfoot, and we went to Americarna a few weeks ago in New Plymouth, which was an incredible event. “The love of vehicles, cars, racing cars, any type of car in this country per capita is just mind blowing.
“We’re able to try and expose that to the rest of the country, and we love doing it.”
Greg Murphy and Stephen McIvor host Skyspeed, Sky Sport 1, Wednesdays at 9.30pm