Jim Richards and F1s headline PHILLIP Island Classic

Australia’s most versatile and most decorated racing driver, Jim Richards, will be patron of the 27th Phillip Island Festival of Motorsport, from 11-13 March 2016.

The popular expatriate New Zealander, who has called Australia home for more than 40 years, will mark the occasion in company with the Team JPS BMWs that brought him the first two of his four Australian Touring Car Championships in 1985 and 1987.

Richards has also won Bathurst seven times and Targa Tasmania eight times winner, alongside NASCAR, GT and TCM championships.

Richards’ patronage coincides with BMW’s 100th birthday celebrations worldwide, which will kick off in Australia at the Phillip Island Classic. The BMW Car Club of Victoria will put on a major display of old and new road and racing models.

Richards will race an ex-Team JPS BMW 635 coupe, now owned by New Zealand enthusiast Peter Sturgeon, in the Group C & A races at the Phillip Island Classic. The BMW has been painstakingly restored to the same Group C spec that Richards raced it in 1983 and 1984.

Richards will also bring to the meeting his own ex-Team JPS BMW M3 – a car he drove in the early rounds of the 1987 ATCC on his way to win his second title – while Shannons might also display the ex-Neville Crichton BMW 635 JPS Team car that Richards also owns but never actually raced in the period.

“Those years racing the JPS BMWs with the late Frank Gardner are very special to me,” said Richards.

“While I had already won Bathurst three times with Peter Brock, driving for Frank Gardner’s JPS Team from 1984-1987 was the turning point of my career.

“I was the lead driver of my own team and won two Australian Touring Car Championships.”

A number of other well-known racing BMWs are also expected to hit the track at the Classic, including the 635 Coupe Richards drove to win his 1985 title.

On his way to victory in the famous car, he set a record of six straight ATCC round victories and also won Amaroo’s AMSCAR Touring Car Series, plus the 1985 Manufacturers’ and Endurance Series, making it one of Australia’s most successful racing cars.

Richards purchased the 635 from a subsequent owner in 1990, but passed up plans to restore it, believing the task to be too great. The BMW has since been painstakingly restored to its full 1985 ATCC-winning spec by its current owner, Adrian Brady.

Famous F1 cars to race

Two famous Formula 1 cars with unique Australian connections will compete at the Classic, thanks to their enthusiastic UK owners, Andrew and Margaret Wareing.

From the 1960s comes the works 1.5 litre BRM P261-5 that was raced by Graham Hill, Ritchie Ginther and Jackie Stewart in Formula 1 from 1964. Later, factory-fitted with a larger 2.0-litre V8 engine, the same car contested the 1965, 1966 and 1967 Tasman Championship in Australia and New Zealand with Stewart and Richard Attwood.

Driven by Graham Hill, the car’s best F1 result was second in the 1964 French Grand Prix, while in 1966 it scored five race victories in the 1966 Tasman Series, with Stewart taking four of its race wins to clinch the eight-race Australian-New Zealand Championship.

Following its F1 era, P261-5 was fitted with a 3.0-litre BRM V12 engine and driven in non-Championship races in 1968/69 by David Hobbs, Tony Dean and Charles Lucas.

After spending some years in a Museum in the UK, the BRM was returned to its original 1.5 litre GP spec to meet Historic Grand Prix Cars Association regulations before it was acquired 10 years ago by the Wareings, who have since raced it in HGPCA events, Historic Monaco and the Goodwood Revival.

The BRM has also been driven in recent years by Sir Jackie Stewart in demonstrations.

The Wareings are also bringing their famous Williams FW06 to Phillip Island – the first car produced by the combination of Frank Williams and Patrick Head for their Williams Grand Prix Engineering Formula One team.

Powered by a Cosworth DFV 3.0 litre V8 engine and driven by Australia’s Alan Jones, the FW06 competed as a lone Williams works entry in all 16 rounds of the 1978 FIA World Championship. It finished in the points three times, with Jones’ best result being second place in the US GP at Watkins Glen.

Andrew Wareing will drive both the former F1 cars at the Classic. The BRM P261-5 will compete in Group M & O events for open wheelers from 1961-1970, where one of its main rivals will be another great F1 car of the 1960s – the 1968 2.5-litre Repco Brabham V8 of Victorian Peter Strauss.

The FW06/03 will compete in the Q & R events for racing cars built from 1970-1985. Here, its principal F1 rivals will be the 1971 March 741 to be raced by four times Australian Champion, John Bowe, and the 1985 ex-works Lola 1.5 Turbo of Sydney’s Iain Ross.

Record entries

Organisers have received a record-matching entry of more than 540 Historic touring, sports and open wheeler racing cars spanning eight decades.

The event has attracted over-capacity fields for Touring Cars, Production Sports Cars and Historic Formula Ford open wheelers.

The record 58 races for (a record) 12 Historic categories will be held from early afternoon on Friday March 11, with the final event late on Sunday. Because of the huge entry, there will be no time for the circuit parades and demonstrations that have been a part of previous Phillip Island Classic FOM meetings.

Feature races will include a 10-lap event for Historic Touring Cars on Saturday afternoon and similar 10-lap sprints for ‘big banger’ sports cars and open wheelers on the Sunday afternoon.

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