Far from scaling back, Steven Richards’ life has become even busier since his retirement from full-time V8 Supercar competition at the end of 2011.
As well as continuing as a sought-after co-driver, including two further Bathurst 1000 victories in 2013 with Mark Winterbottom and 2015 partnering Craig Lowndes, he has competed in the Carrera Cup (winning the 2014 title) and entered the Australian GT Championship in 2016 running a factory-supported BMW M6 GT3 under his own Steven Richards Motorsport banner.
At the 2017 Bathurst 12-Hour he’ll be wearing two hats, overseeing Team SRM operations as well as trying to knock Ingall, Skaife and Longhurst off the top step of the podium from behind the wheel of the sister M6 GT3.
While it’ll be BMW’s first time at Bathurst, Richards is confident the team will be at no disadvantage to teams with more experience. “The beauty of being a BMW M6 GT3 customer is that you have direct access to Munich and their engineering department and they’re providing a huge resource,” says Richards.
“We’re rolling out a program that includes Challenge Bathurst at the end of November and also an exclusive day that BMW have booked up there. By the time we get to the 12-Hour we’ll have a raft of knowledge and simulation and expertise based on extracting the maximum performance out of the car for that event.”
Despite having to split his time, Richards is still enjoying his driving duties: “Honestly, I feel like I’m driving better than ever, whether I’m stepping into a V8 with Craig and Eight or I’m driving my Porsche or the BMW, it’s one of those things I think the more driving that you’re doing, the sharper you are.
“I still train hard, I do all the things that I used to do when I was a full-time V8 Supercar driver, I guess I’ve got more responsibility outside the car with our own team now and I’m finding it really rewarding. It’s funny, you always look to where your career and your life is beyond the driver’s seat and it just evolved into this.
“It’s been a great evolution but I think moving forwards we want our team to grow, we see the GT3 category of motorsport in Australia is growing and we want to get more involved with races here and potentially overseas with our team. It’s really exciting times.”
The Richards family has a strong history with BMW, Steven’s father Jim winning two ATCC titles in 1985 and 1987 with the Munich marque, and this connection played a strong part in the team’s choice of GT3 car.
“There was a lot of family value invested in approaching BMW with our proposal,” explains Richards. “There’s no question that that heritage and that history came to my front of mind and also the fact that BMW is one of the bigger players here in the Australian market. The timing was spot on and they had a great product they were launching; it was a little bit of an aligning of the planets.”
So is dad Jim going to get a steer at some point? “I’ve got no doubt that we’ll have dad in the car at some point,” grins Richards. “Not competitively, but just out for a run; he hasn’t driven a car with ABS and that amount of downforce and paddle-shift and all that sort of thing; I think it’ll be a great story.”