Jim Richards and his Group C BMW 635 CSi off to race in Europe
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The iconic JPS BMW 635 CSi touring car is set to make its European debut at the Silverstone Classic in the UK with Jim Richards behind the wheel.
As a seven-time winner of the Bathurst 1000 and multiple Australian touring car titles under his belt, Richards needs little introduction to motor sport fans in the northern hemisphere, and his presence at the Classic will be special occasion for touring car fans.
The Classic, run between 28-30 July, will be the first time that the JPS 635 CSi has ever been seen outside its native Australasia.
Richards and the BMW 635 CSi first joined forces in 1983 racing for the Frank Gardner Racing team. Back in the early '80s, Australia had its own Group C touring car regulations permitting more freedom than the more widely adopted Group A rulebook.
Although the the pair managed to win the hearts of many fans, their success was limited against an opposition armed with more powerful V8 Fords and Holdens.
However, when Australia adopted the international Group A formula in 1985, the combination proved utterly unstoppable – Richards winning seven of the ten rounds and, with them, the inaugural Australian Touring Car Championship title.
In a golden year for JPS Team BMW, Richards also went undefeated in the AMSCAR Series and then added the Australian Endurance Championship crown by winning five out of six races.
The 635 CSi BMW was in this less tuned Group A specification when acquired by its current owner, New Zealand collector Peter Sturgeon. However, Richards and Pip Baker, who had worked with Frank Gardner back in the day, convinced Sturgeon to put the 635 back into its more dramatic Group C guise.
“Pip adopted the project and it took him almost 18 months to complete. It was worth all the effort, though, as the final result is utterly amazing,” said Sturgeon, who is now flying the car half way round the world to be at the Silverstone Classic.
“The sound of the straight six, twin-cam engine revving at more than 8000rpm is something all petrol heads should hear,” he continued.
“In Group C form, this is the one and only 24-valve engined BMW 635 ever raced and to have Jim back driving it is very, very special.”
More than 30 years on, Richards is every bit as excited to be back behind the wheel of such a magnificent and important machine.
“It’s a beautiful car,” said Richards.
“I’m so glad we persuaded Peter to put it back in what we called Group C specification, as those rules were a bit more liberal than Group A, more widely used at the time. It now looks absolutely stunning with its big arches and a 24-valve motor which revs to around 8,400rpm and sounds glorious even with a muffler."
“I’ve been invited to Goodwood a couple of times but have never been to the Silverstone Classic before. I’m told it’s another of the great events, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Richards and the BMW 635 CSi will be competing in the two Super Touring Car Trophy showdowns which will feature two grids racing simultaneously.
The more modern Super Tourers from the nineties will line up in front and take the first rolling start. Then, 30 seconds later, a combined grid of Group 1, Group A and now Group C racers will flash across the line.
Lining-up in the second of these packed grids, Richards will find himself up against a group of Ford Sierra RS500s when racing gets underway.