Ronan Murphy says he is excited for the challenge of competing in next season’s Toyota 86 championship as he returns to tin-top racing for the first time in three years. However, he isn’t expecting to be competitive right out of the box.
Yesterday it was announced Murphy would be in a second Dayle ITM-backed 86 on the 2021 grid with Christina Orr-West already confirmed for the other seat.
It will be a vastly different challenge to what Murphy has experienced over the last few seasons having spent time in the New Zealand Formula Ford championship and the US Formula 4 series.
To get up to speed, Murphy will be racing alongside experienced Kiwi GT driver Chris van der Drift in the final round of the mini-endurance series at Pukekohe.
When asked whether the move to tin-top racing could be the start of an entirely new career path – one that could see him emulate the likes of his father Greg in the touring car racing scene – Murphy said the opportunity was more about keeping race fit before assessing what lies ahead.
“At this stage the switch to tin top style cars is to keep racing miles up over summer before seeing what options are on the table for next year,” Murphy told Velocity News.
“But I have no doubt I will enjoy it, so never know what the future may hold.
“After returning from America, I didn’t have anything particularly planned or lined up. But Deb Day from Dayle ITM had been working really hard putting this all together. When she offered me the opportunity, I was really excited about it.
“I have spent all my time racing open wheeler cars and have only had a few runs in an 86 about three years ago now, so it is pretty much entirely new for me.
“Competitively, I’m not too sure where we are going to be at this stage. Hopefully, once we can start turning some laps, we will begin to get pretty close.
“Some of these guys are really experienced in this class so I have no doubt it’s going to be tough.”
Murphy and van der Drift will contest the final two one-hour races in the inaugural Toyota 86 two-round mini endurance series.
Category manager Geoff Short said that having the likes of van der Drift assisting Murphy in the endurance event will be an excellent way to have the up-and-coming racer quickly adapt to the challenges of the series.
“The one-hour race is a great format with the two drivers and everyone who competed in the first round are eager to do it all again,” said Short.
“How often do you get to race a driver with the calibre and experience of Chris van der Drift? It’s fantastic for Toyota 86 racing in New Zealand and a great way to mark Ronan’s entry into the class for the 2021 Championship.”
The final round of the endurance series will be at Pukekohe Park on December 4-6.
The first meeting in the five-round 2021 Sprint Series calendar will be at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park over January 22-24.