A frustrated Greg Murphy will miss next week's International Rally of Whangarei just when he was showing some real signs of improvement.
The four-time Bathurst winner and Supercars star has taken his racing career down the rallying path and has been contesting the New Zealand Rally Championship the past couple of seasons in a new generation Holden Barina AP4 car.
Until recently Murphy's limited gravel experience and teething issues with the new car have limited his success. But the 45-year-old turned some heads with a couple of impressive stage times at the season-opening Otago Rally earlier this month before a mechanical failure ultimately cost him a good finish.
Murphy recorded a couple of top four stage times despite battling some car issues and having to adjust to a new co-driver after Mark Leonard had to withdraw sick the night before the rally.
"From a driving point of view we are making some progress," Murphy told The Herald.
"It was challenging with Lenny having to pull out but fortunately Lisa Hudson was around and she jumped in but there were a few little challenges around that with Lenny's notes and bits and pieces that took a little while to get on top of.
"The long stage 12 particularly I was really happy with – I was surprised to be in the top four.
"It is not about results – you like being good, you like being fast but it is frustrating with another mechanical failure with the car. It is starting to become a tough thing to take to be honest."
The new AP4 cars have a lot of potential. They look and sound great – not dissimilar to a full WRC car – but the downside is the lack of time spent developing. That development is basically happening on events and it means there is a lot of frustration as minor issues get ironed out.
"There is no problem with the car's speed as far as what it is capable of it is just what powers it and getting it reliable," Murphy explained.
"It is all over too soon and then you have to go back an almost reinvent the wheel."
In an encouraging sign Murphy's teammate Josh Marston, in an identical car, made it to the end of the event eventually finishing fourth while posting some competitive times.
It all points to Murphy being quite competitive once they get on top of the car.
"I haven't got any targets really," he explained. "It is just about finishing and that is clearly the biggest hurdle to overcome at the moment. Then it is doing what we did at times at Otago – nice, clean stages and learn from it.
"There is a lot to take from being quite competitive in a couple of stages and understand what I was doing right and I think I know what that is. Then it is a case of evolving it from there.
"Unfortunately I can only improve on what I did in Otago by having more time in the seat and finishing stages. It is the trust thing and understanding what a car is capable of."
Adding to Murphy's frustration is the fact he will miss the next round in Whangarei due to a clash with his Supercars television commitments. Beyond that event though Murphy is set to complete the remainder of the championship and a break-through result could well be on the cards.