Greg Murphy gets fit and active at EIT Institute of Sport and Health

Greg Murphy (fondly know as Murph) spent most of 2021 preparing at the EIT Institute of Sport and Health for a one-off return to the Bathurst 1000 Supercar race.  But all the effort was in vain due to COVID19.

Murph who is famous for driving what is regarded as “the lap of the gods” at Bathurst and winning the race four times was announced by sponsor Erebus Racing for a one off return with fellow Kiwi driver Richie Stanaway.

The Hawke’s Bay born and bred motor racing superstar was supported by two friends in preparing physically and mentally for the Great Race, under the close eye of HBCFCT Sport Performance coach Roy Haffner.

Three to four times a week Murphy, highly-acclaimed motor racing broadcaster Greg Rust and long-time friend Mike Rabbitte went through their paces by Haffner at EIT Institute of Sport and Health Performance facility.

“It was really good to get back into the gym and do things properly.  Learning the biometrics of the body and building up to a race again, as well as training with mates in such a fantastic facility, right on our doorstep. Training with Mike and Rusty made all the difference. It’s hard to train by yourself, and I know if I was by myself I wouldn’t have been as motivated or prepared as I am. The skill set of all the professionals that work at the high performance training centre from the coaches through to physios has been fantastic.”

Murphy last raced fulltime in 2014, ending a Supercar career of over 440 races, including 28 wins and 81 podiums.  He admits that fitness hasn’t been too much of a priority since then, with mountain bike riding and trail bike riding being his recreational activities.

His trip across to Australia was eventually thwarted weeks out from the race due to being unable to secure a return MIQ spot. As was his overall build up to the race, limiting any time behind the wheel of a race car.

“I couldn’t get in a car as much as I thought I was able to. There was a plan to do quite a bit of racing including the NZ Endurance Series, but my drive partner and vehicle was based in Auckland, and they’ve been in lockdown.”

Instead Murphy and his two mates have been gym bound and enjoying the variety of workouts that physically and mentally go some way to getting him through driving stints throughout the 12 hour race.

“Fitness is really important as it ties in with the mental side of things such as concentration which is very important along with combatting the physicality of driving the car in temperatures that can hit 50 degrees in the cockpit. I can still get in a race car and go flat out quite competently but a Supercar is unique and that’s what makes it pretty special – those cars are not the same as anything else.”

HBCFCT Sport Performance coach Roy Haffner says Murphy worked hard in the gym focusing on his cardiovascular endurance, general upper and lower body strength along with specific motor sport athlete work.

“Our training programme ticked off the big platforms and once the foundation training was in place we started to dive into some specific motorsport athlete work. Neck strength and postural work was included due to the amount of G force going through the body while racing and also cognition and coordination training under fatigue and heat duress. Greg definitely has a commitment and grit in his work that I have not seen before, you can see why he has been so successful in his career. He’ll do whatever it takes and loves getting stuck into hard work. I haven’t heard him complain once. His awareness has become much better in the gym, he understands what we’re trying to achieve and is consistent with his technique. His recovery time has also become much better as his body has gotten used to the demands.”

Haffner says it’s been invaluable for Murphy to train alongside his two mates and they have also seen positive improvements in their own fitness levels.

“The morale in the gym when the boys are getting stuck into some tough training has been great. Rusty has also been working in motorsport for over 20 years, so I feel like it’s great for him to understand some of the training the drivers he commentates go through and why. It’s been great having the ‘wrap around’ system that we have here at HBCFCT; working alongside the physios and other coaches to get the most out of our athletes.”

Murphy is now contemplating fulfilling a Bathurst return in 2022.

“This was for very different reasons as to why I used to race. It was thrown out there as a bit of a media stunt, but it’s also not a charity match. It’s not realistic to win, that’s just not possible with the performance and the speed of the fulltime professional drivers, but we’re not there to make up the numbers either. You want to race, and show you know what you are doing, not floundering and getting in the way and that makes me a bit anxious actually. There’s a lot at stake and there is too much cost and danger in racing a Supercar, so preparation is very important. There are a lot of reasons as to why I decided to race again including the guy that fronted this for Boost Mobile, Peter Adderton. He and I go way back, and apart from my first ever race at Bathurst in 1994, he has never been there to watch me race a V8.”

Family support was important throughout the journey and wife Monique was the one that eventually convinced him to consider a one off return.

“She made me think about the opportunity in another light. I was initially not excited about it as I didn’t want to have to deal with thinking about competing in a race, knowing that the preparation was going to be difficult. She said why wouldn’t you, you are going to go and race for the first time under a completely difference premise than what you have before, and that was a good enough reason.”