Greg Murphy loving life on the loose
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Greg Murphy is on the loose. The fiercely competitive racer who achieved four Bathurst 1000 victories has fallen in love with rallying, driving on gravel and understanding the nuances of pace notes.
Murphy began rallying four years ago with occasional outings in classic rear-drive cars. Last year the arrival of two Holden Barina AP4 cars provided the opportunity to steer something modern, turbocharged and four-wheel-drive but Supercars TV commitments limited his programme.
This year there’s a chance to contest five out of the six NZ Rally Championship rounds with the Penny Homes Holden Rally Team alongside team-mate Josh Marston and accelerate the loose surface learning process.
‘‘The first couple of years were a bit sporadic and last year the calendars didn’t match up all. This year is better — I get five out of the six NZRC rounds and maybe one or two others,’’ says Murphy.
And while Murphy says his foray into rallying is about personal satisfaction rather than winning, his participation in the New Zealand Rally Championship helps to boost its profile and there is clear potential in the pace he’s already shown.
Murphy stresses he’s rallying with significantly different motivation and goals to those which brought him Supercars success.
‘‘Every time you get in a race car you want to be the best you can possibly be,’’ says Murphy.
‘‘I’m competitive but I’m also incredibly realistic. I’m not here to spend the next 20 years of my life trying to become the best rally driver. I’m here because I need to do something and I want to do something different.’’
Greg Murphy (second left) with co-driver Mark Leonard (left) and Penny Homes Holden Rally Team team-mates Josh Marston and Andrew Graves.
Murphy says his interest in rallying goes back many years.
‘‘I’m a motorsport fan and a car guy and I’ve always followed Kiwis. I knew Possum Bourne from way back and I’ve always had this fascination with rallying. You get to go sideways in these amazing cars on incredible roads, all by yourself.
‘‘I was out watching New Zealand rallies and the WRC. You get to watch the skill and the daring of the best and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.’’
Switching codes brings a whole new set of challenges.
‘‘It’s trying to conceptualise and understand how you can drive so fast on a loose surface,’’ says Murphy.
‘‘There’s the constant unknown of what’s coming and trusting the information from the guy sitting next to you.
‘‘At Otago for example you’ve got all these blind crests which just breathe a slight change of direction. And even when you’re told there’s 200 metres on the other side it’s like, really?
‘‘Getting your head around that is an incredibly difficult thing to do.’’
Shakedown for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship - Rally Whangarei. Photo / John Stone
Some of the relationship between rally driver and co-driver is similar to the race driver-engineer dynamic.
‘‘In a race you’re on the radio to an engineer and there is information about lap times, pit stops and strategy.
‘‘But the engineer is sitting in a nice shed connected by radio. The co-driver is as committed as you are and the job is a really hard one.
‘‘They’ve got their head down reading the notes and I couldn’t do that. It’s a very intriguing relationship that the driver and the co-driver have.’’
So, is modern racing more of a science while rallying remains something more of an art form?
‘‘That’s an interesting way to put it,’’ says Murphy.
‘‘On a track you’re trying to perfect everything and you get to do it lap-after-lap.
‘‘In rallying you are improvising and trying the use the information you’ve got the best you can. But things change all the time.
‘‘In a race car if you put the car in slightly the wrong position then you are not going to maximise the corner. You put the car in slightly the wrong position in a rally and the effects of that can be catastrophic.
Photo / Greg Henderson
‘‘It can be like that in circuit racing but it’s not like you don’t know what’s coming. You know where you are and all the things you’ve got are in a box. In rallying it’s not in a box, there is such a bigger window of the things that can potentially go wrong.
‘‘But I love the challenge of it. I will never get to a level I will ever be 100 per cent happy with but that’s okay because there’s nothing other than personal achievement.
‘‘I don’t have that need to win in this form of the sport. It’s not going to do anything for me. I’m not doing this to prove anything, I’m doing this because I get personal satisfaction out of it.
‘‘If I don’t get on the podium or finish in the top-10 but I’ve got to the end of the rally and I’ve loved it and I’ve learnt something, that’s good enough.’’
Murphy is enjoying rallying’s more relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie.
‘‘It’s a lot different. A big part of that is you’re not bashing doors into the first corner. No one’s bitching and moaning that you cut them off or you touched the back of someone and spun them out.
‘‘Circuit racing has been a life for me and it’s been very special. But I’m also very content with not having to go and do it to keep me satisfied.’’
So how will Murphy evaluate his rallying progress?
‘‘You only have to compare a few stage times, look at who you are around and the experience these guys have got.
‘‘There are some brilliant rally drivers in this country. That’s not even counting Hayden (Paddon) – we have rally drivers who have achieved massive things in this country and I have huge respect for them.’’
And there’s already respect coming the other direction. Murphy’s pair of fourth fastest stage times during the Otago season opener didn’t go unnoticed as he made another step up the loose surface learning curve.
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