V8 star-turned rally driver Greg Murphy got his first opportunity to drive his brand new Holden Barina AP4 rally car at Hampton Downs yesterday.
The 44-year-old four-time Bathurst winner will contest this year's New Zealand Rally Championship in a purpose-built Holden Barina that was unveiled with a blast around the skid pan in front of assembled media Wednesday.
"This morning was the first time I have driven it in anger," Murphy told herald.co.nz. "Because it is road licensed I drove it from the apartment here at Hampton Downs, down the road and back and that was that.
"[The display performance on the skid pan] was my second drive. We did the same thing earlier to make sure it was all working correctly.
"It is a little weapon - at the moment we are still tuning and we are still getting things where they should be so it is down a little bit on horsepower and RPM but we know it is going to be strong and reliable and there is going to be more from it.
"The torque and the ability for it to move forward when accelerating is just awesome."
With a little over two months until the opening round of the championship Murphy will have time to work on getting the car exactly to where he wants it.
"Hopefully we are going to be in a decent zone pretty soon but we do need to get it on gravel and we plan to do that in the next few weeks," he said.
Murphy, who is a television commentator with Supercars in Australia, will miss the opening round because of a clash with the Supercars event in Tasmania but someone else will be behind the wheel at Rally Otago.
He plans on contesting the remaining rounds but is playing down any thought of contending at the pointy end of the field at this point in his rallying career.
"We do have a clash and we will look to potentially put someone else in the car. If we do that it will be someone who knows what they are doing.
"It is a huge learning curve year for me. I need to learn the four wheel drive system and how to drive one of these cars efficiently and fast enough to be respectable.
"I honestly haven't set a goal in mind - I think the goals will come after each event.
"I am not in a hurry - well until I get behind the wheel at least."
He will have a good reference with the younger but more experienced on gravel teammate Josh Marston driving a second Holden Barina in the stable. Murphy wants to improve and the team expects the circuit-racing star to be up to speed by the end of his first season.
Despite that prediction Murphy says a future run at the New Zealand Rally Championship title is not his motivation.
"I think we are getting ahead of ourselves with that - I can honestly say I haven't sat in bed at night thinking about it.
"I just enjoy the process, the people I'm working with, I love the rallying community and this class and where it could possibly go."
With two Holden Barinas, two Toyotas, three Mazdas, a Suzuki, a Skoda, a Mitsubishi, a Ford Fiesta and a Volkswagen Polo already being completed plus rumours of other manufacturers like Kia and Audi joining the fold, the AP4 class has reinvigorated the New Zealand Rally Championship.
"A lot of people in New Zealand have bought into that and I am looking forward to being part of it," Murphy said.
New Zealand Rally Championship
April 8 Rally Otago
April 29 International Rally of Whangarei
June 4 Rally Canterbury
August 26 Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel
October 14 Rally Waikato
November 25 Rally New Zealand