Four-time Bathurst 1000 champion Steven Richards is heading back to Australia’s most revered circuit this weekend, intent on taking the #12 Laser Plumbing & Electrical Porsche back to victory lane, the 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion hoping that his long association with the 6.213-kilometre Mount Panorama circuit will give him an edge over his rivals as he searches for more valuable championship points.
Fortunately – if history is any guide – Richards should leave the iconic circuit ahead of the final round on the Gold Coast with a big haul of points, with a record at Bathurst over five years that shows one win [2014 – his championship year], seven podiums and just one DNF in 15 starts, in fact his worst race finish has been fifth place (three times), suggesting that experience will be a contributing factor this weekend.
“We always go into a race event looking for the best result, and the best result without question is victory, so that will certainly be our focus,” Richards admitted.
“Bathurst is always exciting – the buildup, the fans, and the mountain – and whilst doing double-duty with Craig [Lowndes] in the Supercar will be a challenge, it’s our sixth year at Bathurst running both categories, so it’s certainly not new. The biggest challenge is actually not what many people think – it’s really only the steering that’s the issue, and it’s about the two different types of power-steering systems that the cars have, so the challenge is often getting back into the Porsche. Really it’s about recalibrating your brain as quickly as you can to understand the sensitivity the Porsche has to the grip levels at the front.. once you’re past that, it’s really much the same..”
For Steve Richards Motorsport, Bathurst 2016 will also present another challenge for the team, with a third entry joining Richards and team-mate James Bergmuller.
“Two-time Bathurst 1000 champion Tony Longhurst will join us in a third SRM entry this weekend which will be a nice addition. Of course he was team-mate with Dad [Jim Richards] back in the days of the mighty BMW M3, so it will be nice to have him join us. He’s been out of the driving seat for a bit, but he hopped into a car at Sandown and had a run with some of the young guys in the Toyota 86 series and really surprised people with his pace, so I expect it won’t take him long to get into the groove.”
As for the Porsche, the pace in 2015 saw the mighty flat-six boxer powerplant push the Type 991 GT3 Cup Car to laps in the 2:06s, and Richards believes they could improve on that again this weekend.
“The good thing about Bathurst is that it doesn’t get a lot of use, so it tends to retain a lot of the grip, so if the weather stays good – and early predictions suggest it will be a fine weekend – then we could be in for three great races, and I’d expect the pace at the front will be pretty quick.”
As for experience, he may be considered a veteran of the sport these days, but Richards admits the modern young racing drivers are quick to adapt, and he believes that challenges during the practice and qualifying sessions often works in favour of the experienced campaigners on the mountain.
“Typically ay Bathurst you see some big offs in practice and qualifying, and often they bring out Safety Cars or red flags, which means limited laps, so anyone a little ‘green’ at Bathurst will not really get the time to dial themselves in, whereas those drivers with experience on the mountain, as well as those doing double-duty, will have an early advantage.”
For those Steven Richards fans that want to follow the reigning Bathurst 1000 hero through the weekend as part of the #888 Team Vortex Holden he shares with Craig Lowndes, opening practice starts on Thursday at 10:45am with the first of three one hour sessions, the second of which (1:05pm) is for co-drivers only. Friday morning’s 8:55am session will also fall the way of Richards whilst qualifying starts at 3:50pm. Saturday morning will see the final practice session (10:10am) ahead of the Top 10 Shootout at 5:10pm, before the big race gets underway at 11:10am on Sunday where Richards and Lowndes will start as reigning champions. Keep an eye on Channel 10 and Fox Sports 5 for full coverage of the event.
2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship
Rnd#7, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, NSW (6-9 October, 2016)
Schedule: [AEDST – GMT +11]
Thursday, 6 October
8:55am – Practice#1 (20-minutes)
4:25pm – Practice#2 (20-minutes)
Friday, 7 October
10:10am – Qualifying (20-minutes)
2:25pm – Race#1 (9-laps)
Saturday, 8 October
4:30pm – Race#2 (9-laps)
Sunday, 9 October
9:30am – Race#3 (9-laps)
2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia (points after six rounds of eight)
1. Matt Campbell (856.5-points), 2. Alex Davison (819), 3. Nick McBride (801), 4. David Wall (747), 5. Steven Richards (622.5), 6. Dean Fiore (501), 7. Ashley Walsh (482), 8. Michael Almond (426.5), 9. Duvashen Padayachee (367.5), 10. Fraser Ross (346.5)
2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship
Rnd#1 – 3-6 March, Clipsal 500, Adelaide, South Australia*
Rnd#2 – 17-20 March, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Victoria
Rnd#3 – 29 April-1 May, Porsche Rennsport, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
Rnd#4 – 17-19 June, Hidden Valley, Darwin, NT*
Rnd#5 – 26-28 August, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW*
Rnd#6 – 16-18 September, Sandown 500, Melbourne, Victoria*
Rnd#7 – 6-9 October, Bathurst 1000, NSW*
Rnd#8 – 21-23 October, Gold Coast, Queensland [FINAL]
* with V8 Supercars
Source. Motorsport Media