Kiwi motor racing legend Greg Murphy was literally flying at the 2015 Royce Watson Memorial Hanmer Rally on Saturday, held in the surrounding Hanmer forests in North Canterbury. Starting 25th in just his second foray in a gravel event, Murphy progressively got faster and faster through the day and finished an impressive 15th overall.
“We had an absolute ball,” commented Murphy. “It’s been an incredible amount of fun and I go away stoked with my involvement, wrapped with the day and wanting more.”
Weather conditions for the 150km event were near perfect for 46 entrants that started the day. Overnight rain settled the dust and a nor’west breeze brought very warm conditions for competitors and spectators.
After the short opening stage Murphy and co-driver Mark Leonard were 33rd overall. Over the next eight stages the pair was able to move up the leader board in their Stadium Motorsport historic car as Murphy’s confidence grew, particularly with the advantage of repeating some stages.
“It couldn’t have gone better,” said Murphy. “It helps repeating some of the stages, particularly the final one. I was able to get into a rhythm and it’s great for the confidence as you can push harder.”
Matt Summerfiled with co-driver Michael Crawley (Subaru Impreza WRX) won the event from Deane Buist/Glenn Simpson (Ford Escort) with David Clearwater/Phil Lester (Mitsubishi EVO 4) third. Organisers were thrilled with the day which proved to be successful on all counts.
“We thought it would be ugly,” commented Clerk of the Course Wayne Barnard. “We had snow on Friday night during the event setup but it came right Saturday morning. The rally was a great success with no dramas and it was great to have Greg involved in the Autsport Club event.”
It was Murphy second gravel rally after his debut earlier in the winter at the Canterbury Rally held near Rangiora. After being thrown in the deep end with two night stages at the start of the rally, Murphy’s car retired the early the next day with an expired engine.
“We really had limited running in the Canterbury Rally,” commented Murphy. “Things were starting to make sense then we retired. Getting through the Hanmer Rally with a reliable engine has been a terrific experience. There wasn’t anything about the day that wasn’t great.”