V8 Supercars icon Greg Murphy hits the gravel roads and forests around Christchurch this weekend in his first attempt at rallying.
The four-time Bathurst winner will drive a Ford Escort in the Historic section of Canterbury Rally, the third round of the Brian Green Property Group-sponsored New Zealand Rally Championship.
Murphy has always harboured a desire to try his hand at gravel-bashing.
“I’ve always loved rallying and have followed the WRC and New Zealand Rally a lot over the years, and now want to have a go. It’s a good lark,” Murphy said. “It’s all a bit of fun — rally cars are cool and sliding around on gravel looks great.
“One of the best races I ever did was the Race to the Sky back in 2004 in a V8 Holden Ute.”
Tony Gosling has allowed Murphy to use his car. He should go all right, as getting sideways isn’t completely unknown to the Kiwi, having notched up a fair few kilometres in the wet in the V8s.
“Jimmy Hewlett is the brave soul who’ll be with me. He’s been rallying a lot and will be giving me guidance and divine intervention as we try and get to the finish. “I won’t be getting much practice time and then it’ll be straight into it with a couple of stages in the dark. That should add to the experience.
“Honestly, I have no preconceived ideas about what’s going to happen and it’s definitely not going to be a walk in the park. Lots of new challenges, which is what I like.”
In the major category, Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn still lead the series over Phil Campbell and Matt Summerfield.
“Our aim is to consolidate this weekend and gain a good haul of points, not like our last run at Otago,” says Hunt.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into stages in South Island forests, which I really enjoy. I also love the night stages.”
While the leading contenders in the field, including Emma Gilmour, who hasn’t managed to get much consistency out of her Suzuki Swift yet, will be going hammer and tongs at each other, most eyes will be on the star attraction.
The event gets under way today with a ceremonial start on Manchester St, then the drivers head out to the Ashley Forest for two stages in the dark.
A further eight stages, all run on forestry roads in the Ashley and Okuku Forests, take part tomorrow before crews return to Manchester St for the finish from 4.45pm.
■This is my last column in this section and I’d like to take the opportunity of thanking readers for supporting the motorsport content in Superwheels and the new-look Driven. I would also like to thank those in command and control for their belief in motorsport and the contribution of many great Kiwi talents who have added to New Zealand’s sporting heritage