The days of Greg Murphy assuming the role of virtual back-seat driver are numbered now that the Kiwi motorsport legend is primed for a return to his favoured endurance race format in the V8 Supercars championship after back surgery.
The 40-year-old makes his long-awaited return to the 2012 title race in this weekend's Sandown 500 on the outskirts of Melbourne. Murphy cannot wait to strap himself into the Kelly Racing Holden.
An opening-round accident in the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide in March caused two injury layoffs and surgery - the latest spanning four rounds after a procedure to fuse vertebrae together.
Murphy, who returned to testing in Sydney last month, has been cleared to retake the wheel from 1997 Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve.
"It's good to be back in the championship again; it's been very strange sitting back for the last three months not being a part of it," he said.
Murphy has had an affinity with the calendar's long-distance events. He won at Sandown in 1996-97 and is a four-time winner of the Bathurst 1000, scheduled for October 4 to 7.
He missed a couple of rounds after his high-speed crash during training at the Clipsal.
He then needed further remedial work after experiencing more discomfort during the Philip Island 300 in May.
Although his Holden proved difficult to handle when he was able to drive, Murphy hoped the enduro races would present a more level playing field when he teamed up with Owen Kelly.
"When you're not having the best sort of year in the regular races, you can bring some form to the enduros," he said. "It takes a bit more thinking, there's more strategies involved, it's not just down to the team that's got the biggest bucks and the fastest car. You can put yourself in there and give yourself a chance, more so than the other races."
Murphy proved that point last year when he finished third at Bathurst, the highlight of an otherwise challenging year.
- © Fairfax NZ News