Bathurst conqueror and V8 Supercar hero Jim Richards will be the focus both on and off the track at the Hampton Downs’ annual Festival of Motorsport being held at the North Waikato circuit over the weekend of January 13 and 14.
Richards will get behind the wheel of the iconic black and gold John Player Special BMW 635
alongside other period correct Bathurst pedigree cars and play a lead role on stage at a
celebratory dinner planned for the Saturday night of the 4Guys Autobarn Legends of
Bathurst event. And it’s fitting that one of the stars of the show is a dead-set legend around the mountain (Mt Panorama).
Richards will be joined by a host of other drivers with Bathurst connections including his son
Steve, Fred Gibson, John Bowe, Allan Moffat and Paul Radisich. It’s just over 25 years since Richards cemented his place in Australasian motorsport history with an unforgettable victory speech from the top step of the podium. Ford fans were incensed that their hero Dick Johnson was denied the win due to a decision made by the officials and they made their feelings known by booing Richards and his co-driver Mark Skaife on the podium.
‘Gentleman Jim’ as he was known didn’t hold back in his speech: “I can’t believe the reception,” he told the crowd. “I thought Australian race fans had a lot
more to go than this, this is bloody disgraceful. I’ll keep racing but I tell you what, this is
going to remain with me for a long time, you’re a pack of arseholes.”
“I could have said worse probably,” says Richards, reminiscing about the events of 1992 and
the victory that was the fifth of his seven wins in the Bathurst 1000. “Five minutes after I said
it I was having a beer and I’d forgotten all about it. Nowadays I’d probably be fined $50,000
for bringing the sport into disrepute. Instead I was asked to apologise and I had no problem
doing that. The following year people wore these T-shirts that read: ‘I’m an arsehole. Jim
Richards told me,’ and I still get fans who come up to me and tell me, ‘I was one of those
That win in 1992 was bittersweet. Before he got on the podium Richards learned that his
JPS BMW teammate and fellow Kiwi, Denny Hulme had died from a heart attack in the early
part of the race. Interestingly enough, it’s a second place finish with his son Steve that ranks
up there as one of Jim’s favourite Bathurst memories.
“We raced together three times in 1996, 1997 and 2004 and we finished second in 1997. I
don’t think any other father and son have ever been on the podium together. When I look
back on my career that second place is as good as a win. We were driving for Garry Rogers
Motorsport and that team punched above its weight which made it even more special.”
“Another one that stands out is 2002 with Mark Skaife,” says Richards. “I was 55-years-old
and I’m pretty sure nobody that old will win it again. We went our separate ways after we won in 1992 and after ten years he asked me to drive with him again. To win it again after
that long was extra special.”
Richards is looking forward to sharing his Bathurst memories with the fans at the Legends of
Bathurst festival and even more so to getting back behind the wheel of the Peter Sturgeon-owned, ex-Frank Gardner Group C BMW 635 CSi.
“It was an easy decision to come over to Hampton Downs and see some people I haven’t
seen for a while and have a drive in a nice car. It probably runs better now than it did back in
the day. The tyres are better for a start. Back when I drove it the tyres weren’t as good as
they are now so it’s probably faster now than when I drove it 30 years ago.”
Sturgeon’s BMW 635 in the iconic black and gold John Player Special livery is a well
travelled car and proved hugely popular at the Silverstone Classic in the UK earlier this year
where it won the Stuart Graham ‘Scarf and Goggles’, the award for the most admired car at
the Classic. It was the first time the car was displayed outside Australasia and both the car
and Richards himself, were a huge hit with the appreciative Silverstone crowds.
“Every time Jim jumps in the car it’s a pleasure to watch him and it’s a pleasure to watch
other people’s reaction when they see him in the car,” says Sturgeon. “He’s such a great
ambassador for our sport and you can see why he’s called ‘Gentleman Jim’.”
Richards first raced the BMW 635 CSi in 1983 with the Frank Gardner Racing team and the
combination came up trumps in the inaugural Australian Touring Car Championship, winning
seven of the ten rounds to claim the title. That same year Richards also won the Australian
Endurance Championship in the same car, winning five out of six races.
New Zealand collector Peter Sturgeon, who runs a transport company in Christchurch, has
been the proud owner of the car for a number of years now, and his relationship with
Richards dates back to the 2012 New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing.
“I’ve got to thank Jim Barclay for putting us together at the festival. It’s become a great
friendship and I still pinch myself today even after working with him for so many years.”
Richards and Pip Barker, who worked with the Frank Gardner team back in the day,
convinced Sturgeon to overhaul the car from a Group A spec car, back to its original Group
C setup. It took Baker almost 18 months to complete the project and the sound of the
24-valve engine revving at more than 8000rpms a little bit special.
“It’s a beautiful car,” says Sturgeon, “and the sound…well, just wait until you hear it at
Jim’s son Steve will climb behind the wheel of an ex-Gianfranco Brancatelli/Johnny Cecotto
BMW E30 M3, also owned by Sturgeon. Another highlight of the Legends of Bathurst festival will be the Bathurst Revival, which will be a chance for cars and drivers that have a connection with Bathurst to race on track, while the two feature categories, Archibalds Historic Touring Cars and ENZED Central Muscle Cars, promise to deliver some outstanding racing on the track.
The Historic Touring Car category was set up in 2015 to promote the purchase and active
use of touring cars from the various categories which were run through the 1980s and
The New Zealand Association now has over 50 active car-owning members and fans at
Hampton Downs can expect to see a broad range of Super Tourer models in a 23-strong
field, from the popular E30 and E36 BMW 3-series models to the later model Honda
Accords, Nissan Primeras and Volvo S40s. Some of the key car and driver combinations at
the Legends meeting include the Archibald’s Group A BMW 635i for Trevor Crowe and a
Mark Petch-owned Volvo 240T driven by John Bowe.
The ENZED Central Muscle Cars (CMC) is one of the most popular race categories in New
Zealand. CMC was formed in 2003, by a group of like-minded enthusiasts from around the
Central North Island (hence the name) who wanted to create a class catering to classic
competition muscle cars. The category grew quickly, as many other competitors who shared
the same passion for thundering, powersliding Australian and American muscle cars came
on board and the fan base grew rapidly.
Formula Libre and Historic Formula Ford complete the racing on track. The Car Club Cruise
will allow members of local car clubs to have a chance to drive on Hampton Downs
International circuit while there will also be a massive Show ‘n’ Shine exhibition.
The Legends on Stage dinner on Saturday evening at Hampton Downs Pavilion promises to
be another highlight of the weekend. Revisit some classic moments from Bathurst on the big
screen and hear from Jim Richards, Steve Richards, John Bowe and Paul Radisich about
their favourite Mt Panorama memories.
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.co.nz