Touring car glory at Phillip Island
Australia’s greatest active touring car driver, Jim Richards, will relive the first of his four National titles when he returns to the wheel of one of his 1985 Championship-winning BMW 635 CSI cars at the 2012 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport from March 9-11.
Richards will race the former John Player Special team car against a near-capacity field of former Group C and Group A touring cars from the 1970s and 1980s in four Touring Car Revival races over the Phillip Island Classic weekend in his first race in a BMW for 24 years.
Participation in the Phillip Island Classic races is essential to qualify drivers for their involvement in major support category events for the Group C and Group A Touring Cars at the 2012 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix meeting the following weekend, at which Richards will again drive the 635 CSI.
The BMW Richards will race is the car he originally campaigned in Group C configuration in the 1984 Australian Touring Car Championship. The vehicle was then rebuilt to Group A specification and was one of three similar BMWS Richards drove to dominate the 1985 series, winning both the Australian Touring Car and Australian Endurance Championships.
Although a three-time Bathurst winner (partnering Peter Brock in Holdens) and having finishing second (twice) and third in the Australian Sports Sedan Championship driving his self-prepared Falcon XC, they were Richards’ first major Australian series titles since his first race in Australia at Bathurst in 1974.
“The BMW was a great car,” said Mr Richards, who first drove the car in the final Surfers Paradise round of the 1982 Australian Touring Car Championship after being ‘head-hunted’ by the late Frank Gardner to spearhead his newly-formed JPS Racing Team.
Although well down on power compared to its Group C Falcons, Commodores and Mazda RX7S, Richards managed to finish fifth in the 1984 ATCC and surprised his rivals by leading the opening laps of the rain-drenched Lakeside, Queensland round.
The ‘ Touring Car Revival’ races will be one of the highlights of the 33-event Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport program, which will begin on Friday, March 9 with practice and qualifying for all categories, followed by racing through the weekend.