Stars' Cars: Bathurst winner Steven Richards
FOLLOWING in the tyre tracks of his legendary racing father Jim, Steven Richards has become a mighty motor sport achiever in his own right.
The four-times Bathurst winner - including reigning champ alongside Craig Lowndes - has inherited his father's freakish racing ability, winning the Australian Formula Ford Championship, Australian Carrera Cup Championship, Bathurst 24 Hours and nine V8 Supercar rounds over a career in numerous formulas.
Those four endurance triumphs on The Mountain are standouts however, and have helped Steven secure a place in this year's Australian GT Championship running and driving factory-backed SRM Team BMW's stunning new M6 GT3.
The Richards name on the side of a BMW once again will be evocative stuff: dad Jim won the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1985 with a BMW 635 CSi and in 1987 with an M3.
We spoke to Steven ahead of the BMW M6 GT3's debut, seeking out his motoring life away from the race track.
What was your first car?
It was a 1980 red two-door Ford Escort RS2000, which was purely a road car. I did my apprenticeship as an aircraft mechanic, and I was the coolest bloke on the airport with that one.
It was a ripper car, four-speed - not much power but good power - and always unbelievably good fun in the wet. I sold it to my best mate as I needed a tow vehicle for my motorsport exploits, so I got an ex-police Ford Falcon XF panel van.
What are you driving now?
I'm in a BMW X5 M now, which has the same 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 engine as our BMW M6 GT3 (which has been modified for racing, of course). I also own a replica of a mid-1970s works rally Ford Escort with BDG Cosworth engine, my little racer which I built up about 10 years ago.
I also have a 1957 Lincoln Premiere, which is just an old cruiser, and another little Mark I Escort RS1600 that I'm doing up as a road car.
What cars did your family have growing up?
In New Zealand, when I was about three or four, I remember we had a Ford Zephyr, and when we first came to Australia dad (race legend Jim Richards) got this ex-Government black ZH or ZK Ford LTD limousine with the electric barn doors over the lights. We had Bathurst trips in that!
In my early years we mainly had Fords as dad was racing them at the time, including an XD Fairmont 5.8 Ghia. One of the nicest we had was when dad moved to BMW (JPS Team BMW) and had a red M535i with the dog-leg gearbox around 1984 or '85.
What's your favourite stretch of road?
The Mansfield-Whitfield Rd in Victoria, heading up across the King Valley.
What's your biggest frustration on the road?
A lack of education. We have a system that gives us the right to have a license, when really the system should make it harder to get a license. And with the driver education industry in general, who's the expert? That's probably one of the things government struggles with.
If you were to pick anyone to go on a road trip with, who would it be?
Chuck Yeager (test pilot who was the first man to exceed the speed of sound in level flight), as he's always been a hero. Or comedian Mike Myers.
What would be your dream car if money were no object?
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the first McLaren, the F1 (1992-1999). A central seating position, big normally aspirated V12, lack of any driver aids, and it has stood the test of time in terms of its performance.
Who: Steven Richards.
Born: July 11, 1972, Auckland, New Zealand.
Resume: Son of seven-time Bathurst 1000 and four-time Australian Touring Car champion Jim Richards, Steven began Formula Ford racing in 1992, winning the Australian Championship in 1994. A move to tin-tops with Garry Rogers Motorsport followed, driving in the Australian Touring Car Championship before moving to V8 Supercars in 2002 driving a VX Commodore for Perkins Engineering.
The same year he won the inaugural Bathurst 24-Hour race in a Holden Monaro. Has won nine V8 Supercars races over his career, and is well on his way to matching his dad's Mt Panorama achievements, having won the Bathurst 1000 in 1998, 1999, 2013 and 2015.
He will drive a factory-backed BMW M6 GT3 in this year's Australian GT Championship, and will again race alongside Craig Lowndes for Triple Eight in 2016's three endurance races, including the Bathurst 1000.