Ex-Richards Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe Set for Phillip Island Classic


Ex-Richards Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe Set for Phillip Island Classic

The 2016 Heritage Touring Cars series is set to kick off in a big way at the Phillip Island Classic, when one of the biggest and most significant grids that the series has ever seen fires up and goes racing.

Joining that grid will be the Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe that touring car legend and Phillip Island Classic event patron Jim Richards will be piloting over the weekend.

The car, built by Frank Gardner’s JPS team in 1982 and now owned by New Zealand enthusiast Peter Sturgeon, is an old friend to Richards. It was his ride during 1983 in AMSCAR and the Australian Endurance Championship, where it would take part in a curiously historic touring car moment.

During the 1983 James Hardie 1000 it had the honour of running an on-board periscope camera, for which it still has the hole in the roof today! Peter’s trying to find the camera – so if you have any tips get in touch!

Richards continued racing it in 1984 when the team took it to the Australian Touring Car Championship and the Australian Endurance Championship.

In 1985 the car was converted to Group A specification and would be raced by Jim’s JPS teammate Neville Crichton. Crichton and the BMW would finish second to Jim in the first round of the year at Winton, with Jim’s win being the first for a BMW in the ATCC. That race was significant as the first ATCC race since 1960 without a single Holden on the grid.

From there Jim Keogh and Garry Rogers would take over the BMW for its return to Bathurst, where they finished an impressive sixth.

Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe

In 1986 Jim Keogh raced the car for a period before it moved into private hands. It would eventually make its way to Jim Bolt in Queenstown, who bought it and returned it to its Group A #31 JPS livery.

Peter Sturgeon took on custodianship of it just under a decade ago.

“I got the call one day to ask if I would allow Jim Richards to drive the car at a BMW Festival of Speed at Hampton Downs.. and I asked – who the hell is Jim Richards, and what are his credentials!?”

“Joking aside we’ve since built up a relationship and have become great friends. He asked if I would send the car to Phillip Island a few years ago, where he raced it under Group A. Then it went on to the Formula 1 at Albert Park.”

“He and Pip Barker, the original JPS head mechanic, convinced me to restore it back to its original Group C configuration. It must have taken them twelve months to convince me, as I’d never heard or seen the car in Group C form, but I’m beyond thrilled with the decision.”

“Pip set to and over a two year process down in Australia crafted a masterpiece. The car’s a credit to him – to recreate it to what it is after so many years and so many miles of hard racing is astonishing.”

“It ran at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival last year, but at that stage it hadn’t been tuned or properly dyno’d and was only running to 5000 rpm. Even then it was certainly the best sounding car I’d ever heard. I kept pinching myself!”

Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe

“Jim came over to New Zealand and raced it in a historic meeting in early February this year. It really got the bristles on the back of everyone’s neck to stand up and with Jim driving it’s a real winner!”

“When he comes onto that front straight at Phillip Island I tell you what, it’s going to make people’s heads turn! I just think it’s a credit to both Jim and Pip convincing me to do that restoration.”

“For me it’s about the cars and getting them out of their sheds and racing them for the public to enjoy as well. It’s a very special thing and we’re incredibly lucky to be the custodians of these cars. And for the guys to be racing with Jim as well I think is a real joy and honour.”

“There’s a great group of guys from both sides of the Tasman, and I wish them all the best for the weekend and hope to see everyone putting the cars back on the trailer as good as they were when they came off!”

The Phillip Island Classic will be held over the 11th to the 13th of March at Australia’s iconic Phillip Island Circuit. The event will see well over five hundred classic racing and sports cars compete over three days.

An awe-inspiring grid of 45 historic Australian Touring Cars will kick off the 2016 Heritage Touring Cars series at the event. Get involved, get up close and personal with the cars and drivers and enjoy touring car racing at its finest!

For more information on the Heritage Touring Cars series head to www.heritagetouringcars.com.au.

And for more information about the Phillip Island Classic point your browser to www.vhrr.com.

Images thanks to Peter Sturgeon

Group C JPS BMW 635 Coupe