David Russell will replace an injured Greg Murphy aboard Kelly Racing’s #51 Pepsi Max Commodore at Symmons Plains Raceway in Launceston, Tasmania this weekend.
Murphy will miss the second event of the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship due to back injury, with the four-time Bathurst winner to undergo surgery on the injury this afternoon.
The Kiwi driver first suffered the back injury in August 2010. The 39-year-old reinjured his back in a qualifying crash on Sunday at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide when he made contact with the rear of Jonathon Webb’s slow moving car, resulting in both drivers missing that afternoon’s race.
Murphy drove on at the Australian Grand Prix event two weeks ago, but discomfort following the Albert Park event was the first sign that the injury had reappeared, leading him to seek medical examination.
The results of an MRI scan yesterday led doctors to insist Murphy undergo surgery to repair a disc in his back.
While the surgery will rule Murphy out of this weekend’s event in Tasmania, the Kiwi ace fully expects to return for his home event in Hamilton, New Zealand on April 20-22.
Russell is a well-credentialed replacement for Murphy, having raced with Kelly Racing alongside Todd Kelly at the endurance events at Phillip Island and Bathurst last year.
Russell, born in Lismore and living in Brisbane, Queensland, races in the 2012 Dunlop V8 Supercars Series for Dreamtime Racing, a team that receives technical and engineering support from Kelly Racing.
Tasmania will be Russell’s first single-driver V8 Supercars Championship event start and his first at Symmons Plains Raceway.
Russell has six previous V8 Supercars Championship starts as a co-driver in endurance events and has raced previously at Symmons Plains Raceway in the Australian Production Car Championship aboard a Proton Satria.
KELLY RACING QUOTEBOARD
GREG MURPHY - #51 Pepsi Max Holden Commodore:
“After seeing my surgeon last week and then with the way my body has reacted on the weekend after not really doing anything I knew something wasn’t right.
“It’s attributed to the accident that happened in Adelaide. It's put too much pressure on the disc and a tear has formed and finally its ruptured open on Friday or Saturday and so after an MRI on Tuesday afternoon the surgeons are getting me into surgery on Wednesday afternoon to repair it before it gets worse.
“My surgeon is under no doubt that it was caused by the impact at Adelaide. I'm very disappointed.”
QUESTION: So you expect the recovery to be 100 percent and quite quick?
“I'm expecting the recovery to be very quick. In 2010 when the disc initially tore, the recovery was very fast once I had the operation.
“I'm expecting this one to be even quicker. But the timing of it this time around is that we have a race meeting this weekend and I've found out about it only two days before I'm due to head down to Tassie, rather than finding out and having three weeks between race meetings.
“In 2010 I had the operation and was racing at Phillip Island less than three weeks later. That's the positive for it. I don't expect it to hold me back.
“The big negative is that it's come leading into a weekend of car racing and I will not be able to compete in my #51 Pepsi Max Commodore. It's very, very frustrating to be honest.”
QUESTION: Do you expect to be back for the next event in Hamilton, New Zealand?
“I've got no doubt about that at all. The doctor is very confident that once we take care of this issue, it will fall back into place nicely and we can carry on.
“I've had no grief, no issue since the operation in 2010, my back's been fantastic and I haven't had any problems. There was no issue leading up to Adelaide or even the week or so after Adelaide, it's occurred some time after that.
“I expect it to go back to the way it was and to be racing as planned in Hamilton. But this has put a bit of a spanner in the works for Tassie this weekend.”
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on David Russell as your replacement in the #51 Pepsi Max Commodore this weekend?
“I think Dave is the right man for the job. He's done such a great job for the team in endurance races and he's familiar with our team and equipment.
“Ultimately it wasn't a hard decision to throw him in there and I'm sure he will represent us really well.
“I'm not looking forward to watching from the sidelines this weekend at all. But at least the Pepsi Max Commodore will have someone we know and trust can do a good job behind the wheel.”
DAVID RUSSELL - #51 Pepsi Max Holden Commodore:
“I was very surprised to get the phone call,” said David Russell.
“Obviously I have to thank Todd, Rick, Kelly Racing and Pepsi Max for the opportunity in what are tough circumstances.
“I feel sorry for Murph and I obviously wish him a speedy recovery.
“It's a great opportunity to join the main series. It's all happened very quickly so I will have to work hard over the next few days with Todd, Rick, Karl and all the engineers to come up to speed.
“I'll be doing my best to get the Pepsi Max car in a strong position this weekend, as I’d love to reward the team with some fantastic results.
“I know all the guys on the team well so it shouldn’t take me too much time to acclimatise. I also know how important it is to keep the car on track and learn as much as I can from this opportunity.
“It's valuable experience for me and I'll be doing my very best to get the best possible result for the team and for Pepsi Max.”
TODD KELLY - #7 Jack Daniel’s Holden Commodore:
“It's a shame that Murph will miss Tasmania and we wish him a quick recovery,” said Todd Kelly.
“Murph and his engineer Scott Besst have really started to get their head around the Pepsi Max car and they've made quite a lot of progress.
“But he's had a rough start to the year in terms of luck with the crash at the first event at Clipsal.
“Now this has put even more of a dampener on his season so far so I feel very sorry for Murph.
“He's fitter than he's ever been and he was really geared up for a solid season this year heading into Adelaide.
“We wish him all the best and we're sure he will be back on deck very soon in time for his home event in New Zealand.
“It's good to have guys like Cameron Waters and David Russell in Dreamtime Racing in the Dunlop Series, grooming them for potential drives in the future. We're able to tap into their abilities at very short notice.
“It will be a really good opportunity for Dave to jump into our Pepsi Max car in the main game and see how he fairs against the rest of the drivers. It will give him a really good chunk of experience as well.”
RICK KELLY - #15 Jack Daniel’s Holden Commodore:
On the Tasmania Challenge this weekend …
“Heading into Tasmania we have made a solid start to the season but we are definitely looking to improve,” said Rick Kelly.
“We were sixth in points on Saturday night at Clipsal but slipped to ninth after a fuel economy problem in the Sunday race.
“We have worked through that now with our new engineering team and we have the GP under our belt, so we've got a lot more experience now working as a group.
“Symmons is a very different track, one where we've had mixed results in the past. We had really good results there a couple of years ago.
“We hold the race lap record there, which is quite exciting, so we've got some good data to work with in preparation for the event.
“It's now time to tune the car for that different style of track. We've been to two Grand Prix tracks basically in Adelaide and Albert Park, now we are at a short, sharp track where every thousands of a second counts because the lap is so short.
“I'm excited for Tassie. I'm enjoying racing more than I ever have. I remember jumping in the Jack Daniel’s Commodore at Clipsal and just having an absolute ball out there.
“I look forward doing that again at Tassie. It's a place we like going, but it's at a different time of year compared to last year so weather may be a bit different.
“I'm really keen to implement the things we learned at Clipsal and the Grand Prix and try to post two really strong finishes in Tasmania.”
KARL REINDLER - #11 Fair Dinkum Sheds Holden Commodore:
On the Tasmania Challenge this weekend …
“Tassie is a great little track that always puts on great racing,” said Karl Reindler.
“I’m looking forward to making more progress with the team this weekend and improving the speed of our #11 Fair Dinkum Sheds Commodore.
“After Adelaide and the Grand Prix we are making progress as I learn the team and we work together across all four cars to improve.
“Symmons Plains is always a tough event given that times are so close on that short track, but I think we can do well this weekend and push our championship position in the right direction.”