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Jim Richards back on home turf in November

30 September, 2015

One of the true good guys of Australasian motorsport, Jim Richards, will soon touch down on home soil for the annual Gathering of Geezers charity dinner, held in November on Thursday 12 at Wanaka’s Warbirds and Wheels museum.

‘Gentleman Jim’ will be joining an already stellar list of motorsport personalities, which includes motorcycling legend Graeme Crosby, former Australian Touring Car Championship  (ATCC) champion Robbie Francevic, land-speed record holder and NZ SuperTourer team owner Owen Evans, and Formula 5000 royalty in the form of Graeme Lawrence. Even our resident ‘Motor Man’ at New Zealand Classic Car, Donn Anderson, will be there!

Considering the supporting list of attendees, it’s no surprise that the 2015 edition of the ‘Geezers’ event is celebrating New Zealand’s rich motorsport heritage. And certainly Jim can be counted as one of the strongest contributors to that heritage, having won titles across Australia’s Touring Car Championship, Nascar championship, Nation’s Cup Championship, and Carrera Cup Championship.

But perhaps his most famed accomplishments were those he achieved at Mount Panorama. His first taste of the Bathurst podium came in 1974, when he and co-driver Rod Coppins came home in at a blistering third. Four years would pass before ‘Richo’ could take outright honours — winning the Great Race in 1978 alongside a driver you may have heard of named Peter Brock.

Jim and Peter would win at Bathurst over the following two years, making them the first combination to claim a three-peat at the mountain (a feat that has only been replicated once since, when Brock and his then-new co-driver Larry Perkins won in ’82, ’83, and ’84). Richo’s next win would only come at the dawn of the 1990s, as a factory driver for Nissan.

Photo: Nissan Motorsport

Nissan had burst into the Australian touring car scene in the mid ’80s, with drivers like George Fury pushing the brand closer and closer to their rivals at Ford and Holden. But it was the signing of Richo in 1989, as well as the arrival of the Nissan R32 GT-R in 1990 that would see the manufacturer reach for new heights. Jim and his trusty Skyline HR31 GTS-R claimed the 1990 ATCC title, before he, his new hot-shot teammate Mark Skaife, and the R32 GT-R would paint the town red over the following two years — racking up wins everywhere, a pair of Bathurst 1000 victories, and in some respects sealing the fate of the Group A formula with their uninterrupted and savage dominance.

Two more Bathurst 1000 titles would fall in Richo’s favour, winning the two-litre iteration of the Great Race in 1998 alongside Rickard Rydell in a Volvo S40, during the height of the Australian touring car bust up, before taking his final 1000 win in 2002 alongside his old mate Mark Skaife, while driving for the Holden Racing Team.

Photo: Touring Car Masters

Of course, Richo still races. Like many before him, giving up on motorsport cold turkey was not an option. He still peddles from time to time in the Touring Car Masters, these days behind the wheel of a distinctive AMC Javelin.

Having met Jim on an admittedly brief and fleeting level, the term ‘gentleman’ that has followed him around for a number of decades is absolutely appropriate. If you were on the fence about attending the 2015 Gathering of Geezers event, you shouldn’t be any more.

Funds raised on the night will be going towards the Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust, and the Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust — attendees given the opportunity to be as generous as possible thanks to the charity auctions that will take place on the night. For more information, visit the Warbirds on Wanaka website, and check below to see the full list of announced racers that will be attending the event:

  • Graeme Crosby
  • Graham Standring
  • Graeme Lawrence
  • Leo Leonard
  • Jack Nazer
  • Mike Marshall
  • Steve Millen
  • Warwick Jones
  • Dennis Marwood
  • Robert Franicevic
  • Chris Munro
  • Heather Spurle
  • Paul Fahey
  • Roger Bertram
  • Shane Drake
  • Owen Evans
  • Garth Hogan
  • Bob ‘The Builder’ Clarkson
  • Aaron Slight
  • Donn Anderson

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.