CHB motorsport driver Sam Barry says his "inspirational" dad has often been in his thoughts as he continues to recover from skull surgery.

"I often think what would Dad do in this situation," said Barry, referring to his father, CHB speedway legend Peter Barry, who died after suffering a brain injury in a crash at an event in Palmerston North in 2009.

"My father was a positive, 'go-forward' sort of man. So that often reminds me not to get caught in the negatives," he said.

It's a positive attitude that the 23-year-old reigning NZ Touring Car Championship rookie driver of the year needs at the moment.


Despite putting on a brave face and posting smiling, "thumbs-up" photos on his Facebook page after undergoing the major skull surgery last month, Barry revealed his recovery had been "really tough".

"With the medication and coming off the anaesthetic, it has taken a huge toll on my body and mind.

"Getting out of the hospital and back to my own home was a huge relief," said Sam, who has been recuperating at home since June 24.

Barry was left with 18 staples in his head after undergoing surgery last month to address a Chiari malformation - where the brain sits too low, causing pressure on the skull and the spine.

The five-hour operation in Wellington on June 21 involved removing part of his skull and replacing it with a patch to give his brain more room.

While the staples were successfully removed 10 days after the surgery and his head wound was healing well with no infections, Barry revealed he was unsure when he would be able to return to his engineering job and racing career.

"I have made no commitments of getting behind the wheel, as I want to be 110 per cent before I race again.

"As for work, I will make sure I am happy with my recovery before I make any decisions on when I will return."


Barry underwent the surgery after he was diagnosed with the condition more than 12 months ago following an incident at the gym.

Determined to get a step up on his rivals ahead of his debut touring car season by pushing himself to the limit fitness-wise, Barry was doing deadlifts when the incident occurred.

"I had a tight feeling come on in the back of my head and within about two seconds I blacked out and when I came round I was in huge pain.

"I thought I must have pulled a muscle in my neck, however every time I would strain doing anything, it would set off the headaches."

After seeing his GP and undergoing an MRI scan, Barry visited a neurologist and the malformation was quickly diagnosed. But Barry said he decided to delay the surgery to avoid derailing his racing season.

"The time when I was diagnosed was about three weeks before the start of the season, so there was a lot of stress.

"I had worked so hard to get the funds to race. It was almost ripped out of my hands and control."

Still, Barry had to attain medical clearance before he was allowed to race - a nervous time for the talented motorsport driver, which took right until the start of the season.

"It was quite a process," he said.

"I was basically stripped of my motorsport licence until I had medical clearance.

"It all fell together with just days to spare," he said.

Despite his medical condition, Barry said he held no real worries about his ability to perform behind the wheel.

"It was something that I had to try and prepare for.

"However, as soon as you are behind the wheel you don't worry about anything apart from your job as a driver."

Barry joked that his Richards Team Motorsport bosses would have been more nervous watching him race their $250,000 Toyota Camry with a major health condition.

Barry finished fourth in the standings to claim rookie of the year honours in his debut touring car season when he recorded a special maiden race win on the eighth anniversary of the death of his father.

Barry said looking back, given all the worries and added pressure, it was a special season.

"But not at the time. I was extremely gutted to miss out on third by only one point," he said.

Despite his uncertain future and potentially long road to recovery, he was trying to keep relaxed and as positive as possible and maintain a good sense of humour.

Barry thanked his family, partner and others for their support in the weeks since the surgery.