HTC Car Profile: Adrian Brady’s JPS BMW 635


HTC Car Profile: Adrian Brady’s JPS BMW 635

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of Group A Touring Car regulations in Australia.

A small field of 15 cars began the Group A era at Winton Motor Raceway on February 10, 1985 in a 50-lap race in warm conditions with BMW pilot Jim Richards a comfortable winner in his black and gold #62 635 CSi.

So comfortable was his win that he finished a full lap clear of teammate Neville Crichton at the end of the nearly hour-long race!

The factory BMW team – under the management of former racer, the late Frank Gardner –  had spent most of the previous season preparing for the new regulations and hit the ground running to instantly be the class of the field.

To tell the story of the car that ultimately took Richards to his first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1985 you first have to rewind to the previous year of 1984.

This was the final year of local Group C regulations and, with the impending arrival of the new Group A rules for less-modified cars, the BMW team started their development work early.

They entered a Group A spec car at Bathurst for former Formula 1 World Champion Denny Hulme and Prince Leopold von Bayern of Bavaria, while Richards and Tony Longhurst drove the regular Group C version in the outright class.

The Group C car failed to finish while the Group A car ended up 15th overall and second in class for the new cars.

Richards drove the new machine at Calder in late 1984 too, in the touring car support race that was on the bill for the Australian Grand Prix – the last held before the race took on World Championship status and moved to Adelaide.

The car became Richards’ #62 racer in the 1985 ATCC, beginning with victory at Winton before claiming another six wins at Wanneroo, Adelaide International Raceway, Calder, Surfers Paradise, Lakeside and Amaroo to win the expat Kiwi’s first Australian Touring Car Championship crown.

Along the way the black and gold machine also won rounds in Amaroo’s AMSCAR touring car series before it was renumbered #1 given Richards was the ATCC victor.

In those days a separate endurance championship was held after the sprints that made up the ATCC.

The change in format didn’t do much to stop the wins as Richards won a 300-kilometre race at Amaroo, a 250-kilometre race at Oran Park and he and Tony Longhurst won the Castrol 500 at Sandown (despite stopping on the back straight with a relay problem at one stage and dropping to 27th place!)

The duo then went to Bathurst to tackle the might of Tom Walkinshaw’s invading Jaguars – they were running well until both JPS BMWs slipped off the track on oil into the sand trap at Hell Corner. This remains a moment in Bathurst history that many fans talk about to this very day!

Richards got going again and recovered to finish fourth before going on to win the final enduro round at Surfers Paradise, even after a rain storm caused a red flag and restart.

All up, Richards used this same BMW 635 CSi to win the ATCC, AEC and AMSCAR Series in 1985, claiming 17 wins, a third, a fourth and a fifth from 21 races started – amazing!

The car was then sold to Garry Rogers at the start of 1986, however Jim’s new replacement car wasn’t quite ready so he drove this 1985 car to second place in the opening round at Amaroo and sixth place at Symmons Plains.

Rogers took over the car for the next AMSCAR round at Amaroo and it was repainted in orange Bob Jane T-Marts colours.

The now-Volvo V8 Supercar team boss later crashed in qualifying for the final ATCC round at Oran Park, prompting a major repair job that saw the car able to return to the track before the end of the season.

Ex-Jim Richards JPS BMW 635 CSi

It was then sold to privateer Joe Sommariva and competed in various touring car events for a few years before being bought by none other than Richards in 1990.

A few further owners had the car for a time until current owner Adrian Brady purchased the BMW in 2006.

An expat Aussie who has lived in Hong Kong for over 30 years, Adrian didn’t get to see a lot of motor racing on Australian soil, but what he did see made a big impression on him.

“The only race I got to attend in the entire Group A era was the 1985 Sandown 500,” he says.

“Somehow my brother got passes to the BMW hospitality tent and there was much moaning and groaning when Jim stopped on the back straight. This later turned to jubilation as he raced back through the field.

“I got involved in Historic racing in South East Asia a bit later and then the opportunity came up to buy the 635 about 10 years ago. I’ve always raced BMWs so it seemed like the perfect car for me.”

The car continues to make appearances in Historic Group A touring car racing and was seen in action at the Phillip Island Classic last year and this year at Albert Park.

“That (1985) season holds a special place to me being the first ATCC win,” says Jim Richards today, who owns one of the sister JPS BMW 635s and has raced it in Historic competition.

“But we were probably favourites because BMW had their European car and everyone had to try and build a better car than what we had. And no one really did until the end of the year.”

Stay tuned to the Heritage Touring Cars website for more Car Profiles on interesting cars and their drivers.

Images thanks to Rhys Vandersyde