One of the most recognisable and successful touring cars from the Southern Hemisphere – the John Player Special-liveried BMW 635CSi of Kiwi racing legend Jim Richards – will make its European debut at this year’s Silverstone Classic, which takes place from 28-30 July.
To make things even more exciting, the Group C racer – dubbed ‘Black Beauty’ in period – will be piloted by none other than ‘Gentleman Jim’ Richards, the car’s original driver and seven-times winner of the legendary Bathurst 1000.
Richards began campaigning the BMW in 1983 under the banner of the Frank Gardner Racing Team, but the Group A division favoured the V8-powered Fords and Holdens. However, when Australia adopted the international Group A formula in 1985, the BMW proved unstoppable, Richards winning seven of the 10 rounds and capturing the inaugural Australian TouringCar Championship. He went on to win the AMSCAR Series and Australian Endurance Championship.
The car eventually passed into the ownership of Kiwi collector Peter Sturgeon, who was convinced to return the BMW to its more dramatic Group C guise by Richards and Pip Barker, who had worked with Frank Gardner and built the 635CSi in the first place.
“Pip adopted the project and it took him almost 18 months to complete,” said Sturgeon. “It was worth all the effort, though, as the final result is utterly amazing.
“The sound of the straight-six, twin cam engine revving at more than 8000rpm is something all petrolheads should here,” 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.”
Jim Richards said: “It’s a beautiful car. 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 wifely used at the time. It now looks absolutely stunning with its big arches and 24-valve motor which revs to around 8400rpm 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 will be in action on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the two JET Super Touring Car Trophy races, which feature two grids simultaneously. The more modern Super Tourers from the Nineties will take the first rolling start, followed by a combined grid of Group 1, Group A, and now Group C racers 30 seconds later.
Click here to find out more information and to order tickets, which must be booked in advance.