Home' Supercar Xtra : Oct Nov 2017 Issue 101 Contents 49
INTO THE BIG LEAGUE
Murphy was a new face on Australian motorsport scene
in 1995 but soon the premier category, Group 3A tour-
ing cars as it was then known, was knocking at his door.
He was by now firmly part of the Super Touring ‘family’,
living with the Addison clan, at a time when there were
tensions between V8 and Super Touring worlds, but it
wasn’t an opportunity he was about to pass up.
“There was a lot of politics, people saying this and
believing that, but at the end of the day Bathurst was the
race and the heroes were still Peter Brock, Dick Johnson,
John Bowe, Larry Perkins, Glenn Seton, Mark Skaife and
all those guys,” says Murphy.
“That was still where it was at in Australia, so when I
got the call from the Holden Racing Team (HRT) to do
the enduros in 1995 it was a pretty amazing and surreal
Murphy’s maiden V8 enduro campaign was forgettable
– retirements at both Sandown and Bathurst – but the
experience of turning up to Mount Panorama for the first
time in a front-running car is still clear in his mind, what
with the mania that year over teammate Craig Lowndes,
who was returning for the first time since his surprise
runner-up result in 1994.
“The first time I ever saw the place was when I drove
the Carina in 1994. That was like, ‘Holy crap, what I have
I got myself into?’” he says.
“But turning up a year later in a Group 3A touring car,
that was massive pressure. Lowndesy was a big focus, he
was this kid who’d just taken the world by storm. I was
just trying to keep up and it was not easy.”
The pair’s 1996 enduro campaign has gone down in
legend – victory at Sandown and Bathurst for the pair,
ushering in the age of the young gun – but Murphy says
there was also the odd bit anxiety on his part.
“When I arrived at Bathurst in 1996 Craig was in
such good form, he was the new champion, we had the
number 1 on the door, it was just massive and I felt the
pressure, I felt it big time,” he says.
“He was clearly faster than I was and I felt that because
I didn’t want to let the team down, I didn’t want to let
him down. To get in the car during the race and drive
out there onto a damp track that was still wet at the top
on slicks in the number 1 HRT car that was leading the
race, well, I can still recall just being terrified about the
“I relinquished the lead; I think Tony Longhurst passed
me while I was still getting up to speed. Then I hit the
wall, down where Chaz Mostert crashed, it wasn’t caught
on camera but the car climbed the wall. There was a lot
going on, it was incredible. But then it all started to come
together, we made amends for what we’d lost and it all
just fell into place.”
1996 put Murphy on the Australian touring-car map
and made him a star in New Zealand, a status he really got
to bask in when the V8 circus rolled across the Tasman
late that year for the Wellington and Pukekohe non-
championship races that ran at the time.
“Here I was with a HRT car and Peter Brock as my
teammate, and it was my car, with just my name on the
door,” he says.
ABOVE & TOP: Murphy had
big shoes to fill following
in the footsteps of Lowndes’
dominant 1996 season.
DOWNS & UPS
Murphy still smarts about 1997, the year he took over
the number-one HRT seat from an overseas-bound
Lowndes for his maiden Australian touring-car cham-
pionship tilt. He won six races and three rounds, more
than any other driver that year, but only finished fourth
in the title race.
“We had a very fast car but also a lot of mechanical
failures, which everyone in the team was hugely disap-
pointed about,” he says.
“I qualified on the front row at eight of the 10 rounds
but at two of those I didn’t even make the warm-up lap,
which makes it pretty hard. And I had a crash at Phillip
Island when a tyre went, that wasn’t very nice.
“Things just conspired against us. And I don’t think I
handled it all that well, to be honest; I was feeling a bit
hard done by. I didn’t understand why it was happening,
that sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”
A championship, as it turned out, would be about the
only thing to elude Murphy in his V8 career. In 1998
he was back to part-time status owing to the return
of Lowndes, an incoming Mark Skaife and an (unsuc-
cessful) attempt to forge out an overseas racing career
of his own. In 1999 he was a full-timer again with the
reborn Gibson Motorsport, a team good enough to
deliver him his second Bathurst crown (1999) but not
V8X101 p46-50 Greg Murphy.indd 49
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