Four-time Bathurst 1000 champion Greg Murphy will make a circuit-racing return next month, following confirmation that he will be competing in the 66th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
The announcement comes some 26 years after Murphy won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1994. The event was held at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon at the time.
While Murphy is more synonymous with tin-tops, open-wheel racers played a big role in the early phase of his racing career. He finished second in the 1994 Australian Drivers Championship in a Ralt RT23 — pipped by GT ace Paul Stokell and beating Craig Lowndes. He also competed in New Zealand’s equivalent Gold Star series, doing so in a Holden-powered Reynard.
While Murphy retired from full-time driving in 2012 and Supercars competition in 2014, he’s dabbled in numerous categories since. These include the New Zealand Rally Championship, Australian GT, and a spate of one-off events — including last month’s Battle of Jack’s Ridge.
Earlier in the year, Murphy tested the current-generation Toyota FT-60 at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
“It was obviously the most significant thing that I had achieved in my career,” said Murphy. “I had won a few things but nothing that really announced myself as someone that could be a professional race car driver.
“The big thing – I can recall the feeling around it – is that it was like I had put a stake in the ground. It meant a lot. It was a progression and a key contributor with where I went next – at that point it was still a hobby I did as an amateur but that allowed me to chase a career.”
Murphy joins Shane van Gisbergen, Chris van der Drift, Kenny Smith, Matthew Payne, Kaleb Ngatoa, and Billy Frazer on the grid for the Grand Prix, with more names set to be announced in the coming weeks.
“It will be a massive challenge,” Murphy said.
“I think perspective needs to be applied – I’m 48 and haven’t done anything serious in a car, competing for such a big trophy since 2014 really. I have done a bit of GT racing but that was just fun.
“The competitive element will kick in – none of us wants to be there making up the numbers – but I will not have it easy.
“The fact that Kenny Smith is entering his 50th New Zealand Grand Prix was a big draw card to competing. If my involvement helps grow the interest in the event then that will be a success.
“This event deserves to be recognised for what it is. By getting some top performers in other categories and stars that have competed before coming back it will help create the spark in the New Zealand Grand Prix that is deserves.”
The Grand Prix takes place on January 22–24, with the rounds two and three of the series unfolding on the following weekends. Round two will also take place in Waikato, and the decider following takes place at Manfeild.