Greg Mur­phy Q&A

Australian Muscle Car - - Immortal Muscle -

AMC: It’s 20 years this year since your first Bathurst win. Can you rewind and give us a sense of the pres­sures of lin­ing up along­side the ‘new hot thing’ of the time in Aus­tralian tour­ing car rac­ing?

Greg Mur­phy: In 1996 ev­ery­thing was so much smoother than when I drove with HRT in 1995. The fact Lown­desy had had such a good year in the car in the se­ries and was dom­i­nat­ing; I think that was also con­fi­dence in­spir­ing.

I was al­ways just that lit­tle bit off him when we went test­ing that year. He was just at one with the car so I was al­ways try­ing to play catch-up.

At Sandown the thing was fan­tas­tic and we came away from that feel­ing bloody com­fort­able about where we were go­ing and Bathurst was the same, al­beit I got to Bathurst and Lown­desy was def­i­nitely on the money im­me­di­ately and very com­fort­able.

I was still play­ing that co-driver role and try­ing to catch up. It was harder around there – the fact it was Bathurst and from mem­ory I found it tough to find my rhythm, which came in the race.

AMC: The cars of that era are so much dif­fer­ent to those of to­day. HRT 033 was built us­ing a pro­duc­tion-based body shell, whereas now they’re a pur­pose-built se­ries-generic rac­ing chas­sis. Can you com­pare and con­trast?

GM: Things have evolved slowly. I sup­pose for a few of us, the way you used to drive the cars was more by the seat of your pants and not as tech­ni­cal. You were pre­cise but it wasn’t like it is now where ev­ery­thing is an­a­lysed to the mil­lime­tre. We didn’t think about it like that then sim­ply be­cause we didn’t have the tools that we do to­day.

It was based on sim­pler sorts of data and lap time and it just didn’t have that nth de­gree of anal­y­sis. Back in the 1990s it was all about test­ing be­cause you were able to do so much of it; it was about be­ing com­fort­able in the car and throw­ing tyres at it to un­der­stand what you had to do in qual­i­fy­ing.

We did a lot of miles and laps and that’s why Bathurst 1996 was also the ar­rival of Greg Mur­phy. To­day, Murph re­veals a lit­tle se­cret from race day. He also says he was ea­ger to exit the race-lead­ing Com­modore and al­low Lown­des to do the fi­nal stint. we were fast. You just kept on im­prov­ing the car, it was all more pas­sive sort of stuff than the mi­cro stuff that is so much a part of go­ing rac­ing now.

You do have to drive the New Gen­er­a­tion Su­per­car dif­fer­ently now to how we drove the cars in the 1990s be­cause of what you are search­ing for and what the engi­neer can work on to im­prove those lit­tle one per­centers.

I don’t think we worked on one per­centers back then, the per­cent­ages of gain were big­ger. It was more about choos­ing the right tyre, get­ting the most out of it and driv­ing it by the seat of the pants. That was the way the Brocks, John­sons, Bowes, Mez­eras were do­ing it.

AMC: You have a lit­tle se­cret from the 1996 Bathurst race that not many peo­ple know about. You very nearly pin-balled the car off the wall and out of the race, cor­rect?

GM: I ac­tu­ally clouted the wall where Chaz (Mostert) hit the wall in 2015. I kept it quiet at the time; it’s not a se­cret now though. I had come out of the Dip­per and I hooked third gear and the thing was snaking all over the place.

I gave it a dab of the throt­tle and it ran up the wall on the left-hand side and I thought ‘oh shit, it’s all over, I’ve stuffed it, what a cock up.’ But it straight­ened back up and it still stopped and turned and I never said a word on the ra­dio and car­ried on!

Then I got my rhythm and it felt good. We started to cir­cu­late at a pretty good pace so I got rolling and from that point on it dried up and we never looked like go­ing back to wet track run­ning.

I got back in for the sec­ond stint and had a bat­tle with Dick (John­son). The car was fan­tas­tic so I was pretty com­fort­able by that stage and I knew what I could do. Once we were back in front it was funny be­cause the guys came on the ra­dio and asked how I was feel­ing. They asked if I wanted to stay in the car for the last stint; I never ex­pected to hear that!

It was Craig’s car and his deal so it caught me by sur­prise. I didn’t want to sound like I didn’t want to, but deep down… I didn’t want to! I just wanted to hand over to him.

I asked them what he wanted to do and they said that he wasn’t fussed. But I said, ‘No, he needs to be in the car for the fin­ish’ and he went to the end. It was all a lit­tle sur­real when we won that race.

AMC: What stands out about that car from a driv­ing point of view?

GM: The car was very good be­cause it had been tuned pretty well. Craig had driven it for the sec­ond half of the year and it had a pretty good setup. The way we liked the car was very sim­i­lar as well so I didn’t re­ally have to do too much to it

to make it com­fort­able for me be­cause straight out of the box it felt fan­tas­tic.

The Bridge­stone was a very good tyre and the team worked very closely with them in their test­ing. The car was ex­tremely well bal­anced and nice to drive.

One thing that took a lit­tle bit of get­ting used to was the fact that there was no power-steer­ing in it. Craig never used it, but we’d done a fair bit of train­ing lead­ing up to the en­durance races and I’d done a lot of test­ing, so I was fairly com­fort­able and it wasn’t a real worry.

It was a dream to drive. We knew it was fast and al­ways com­pet­i­tive and all we had to do was ba­si­cally keep it on the track and not make any mis­takes and you’d pretty much win any­thing you went in.

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