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Tin-top tales

Remembering Jason Richards
The death of V8 Supercar driver Jason Richards overnight has robbed the sport of a charismatic and popular figure; not to mention a quick driver. Mark Glendenning remembers the 'Chief Speedstar'

  By Mark Glendenning

His business card listed his profession as 'Chief Speedstar', so it seemed entirely natural that Jason Richards was racing a historic touring car at Bathurst just three months before the rare and aggressive form of cancer that he'd been fighting since late 2010 finally claimed him at the age of 35.

JAson Richards V8 Supercars 2008

It says even more about him that the historic touring car outing had been a Plan B. Up until a couple of months earlier, Richards had been hoping to race in the Bathurst 1000 itself as team-mate to Jason Bright in a Brad Jones Racing Holden Commodore, and even went so far as to drive in the practice session at the V8 round at Hidden Valley in June to test his fitness.

"When I'm in a race car, it makes me feel cancer-free," he told Australian website speedcafe at the time. "Racing around Bathurst [in the historic tourer] will take away a little bit of the pain of not being in the main event."

Jason richards Melbourne V8 Supercars Brad Jones Holden 2011
Richards' last V8 race outing came on the Australian GP support bill this year

That outing came off the back of an appearance in the Australian Grand Prix-supporting non-championship V8 races in March, where he qualified sixth, took the lead in the pits, but was eventually passed by Garth Tander and finished second.

"I had a choice – either to sit on the couch and watch, or take the seat and do it myself," he said. "This is my weekend, where I'm living my normal life. The heavy stuff will come later on."

A week earlier, he'd taken part in the second-tier Fujitsu Series race at Adelaide, picking up a win, and also chose the same weekend to make his GT debut in a Ferrari 430 GT3 in the Australian GT Championship races.

And all of this just five months after the diagnosis of his illness had forced him to step back from full-time racing.

His career numbers don't do his talent justice, but those who knew him rated him highly as a driver, and even more highly as a person.

Self-effacing, open, funny, and completely unpretentious, Jason was the sort of person you'd seek out in the paddock even if you didn't have anything in particular that you needed to talk to him about, just because standing around chatting with him for a few minutes made your whole day that bit better.

Jason richards greg murphy Bathurst 1000 v8 supercar 2008
Richards finished second at Bathurst three times, including in 2008 with Greg Murphy

He was also one of the most grounded professional drivers I have ever met. On one occasion we were joking about the perks of his job, when he paused for a moment.

"It's actually kind of ridiculous," he said. "For years, I couldn't afford most of the stuff I wanted. And now that I finally can, half of it is being sent to me for free anyway. I feel a bit embarrassed about it."

Not so embarrassed that he wouldn't use his status as a V8 Supercar driver to his advantage. I recall being at a friend's house and seeing an interior decoration magazine with a cover story about 'motorsport star Jason Richards' new kitchen'. Next time I saw Jason, I asked him about it. He just winked and grinned.

Richards started his V8 Supercar career at Bathurst in 2000 as Angus Fogg's co-driver in the Team Kiwi Holden, and it was largely his prowess around the famous circuit that defined him over the years that followed.

He never managed to win Australia's biggest race, but he finished second on three occasions (missing out on the win by just 0.79s in 2009), and fourth in 2007.

As well as being his favourite battleground, Bathurst held a personal resonance with Richards, too – he proposed to his wife Charlotte while standing up at Skyline.

His only V8 win came at Winton in 2006, three years after he netted his first podium at the Sandown 500 – an achievement that he celebrated by giving a bottle of champagne, complete with specially-made labels, to every member of his team.

Jason richards Team Kiwi Holden V8 Supercars 2002
Richards' first season in Australia came in a Team Kiwi Holden in 2001

A multiple champion in New Zealand Touring Cars, Richards spent his entire V8 Supercar career in Holdens. His Bathurst outing with Team Kiwi in 2000 resulted in him being rewarded with a contract for a full-time ride in 2001 and 2002.

A stint with newly formed Team Dynamik followed before he moved again in 2004, this time to another new team in the form of Tasman Motorsport. He remained with Tasman for the next five seasons, decamping in 2009.

Outside of his own racing he was also passionate about developing motorsport talent in his native New Zealand, and ran a mentoring programme for young drivers.

Richards was a gigantically popular figure in the paddock, and the sadness of his loss is tempered only by the gratitude that we had the opportunity to know him in the first place. Our thoughts are with Charlotte and daughters Sienna and Olivia.

  FEATURES FROM DEC 15, 2011 - DEC 21, 2011
In the magazine: Mega 2011 F1 season review
The 2011 GP3 Series review
By Glenn Freeman
Memories of the year: Beating my racing hero
By Ben Anderson
Why F1 drivers keep getting younger
By Dieter Rencken
Memories of the year: Reminiscing with Will Power
By Mark Glendenning
Newman/Haas: End of an era
By Jeff Olson
Petter Solberg: Why I signed for Ford
By Petter Solberg
Remembering Jason Richards
By Mark Glendenning
Dan Wheldon: By those who knew him best
By Charles Bradley, Edd Straw and Simon Strang
Memories of the year: An Indian adventure
By Marcus Simmons
How Ricciardo earned his big chance
By Adam Cooper
Memories of the year: In the company of legends
By Henry Hope-Frost
Memories of the year: Fun at the Daytona 24 Hours
By Charles Bradley
The 2011 MotoGP season review
By Simon Strang
The top 10 MotoGP riders of 2011
By Simon Strang
Marco Andretti: Proving the sceptics wrong
By David Malsher
Why de la Rosa has faith in HRT
By Adam Cooper
Memories of the Year: Zandvoort magic
By Jamie O'Leary
The 2011 Sportscar season review
By Gary Watkins
Lewis Hamilton's rollercoaster year
By Edd Straw
Memories of the year: Group B fever
By David Evans
2011 Formula 1 season review podcast
The F1 team principals' top ten drivers
By Jonathan Noble
Zoom in: F1 2011 season review
By LAT Photographic
Australian-born Mark Glendenning joined AUTOSPORT from sister publication Motorsport News in 2008, and left London for California at the start of 2012 to take up his present role as the title's US Editor.

Prior to arriving in the UK, he served as deputy editor of Australian magazine Motorsport News for seven years and contributed to AtlasF1 from 1999 and then AUTOSPORT after the websites were merged. Since getting his first media hardcard in 2001 he has worked in a variety of paddocks, including IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, GP2, and the WTCC, although he maintains that a one-make Ford Transit race on the Porto street circuit is the weirdest thing he has seen at a track.

Currently based in San Francisco, he is still trying to work out how a degree in cultural anthropology got him into motorsport.
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