Steven Richards is absolutely no stranger to motorsport. In terms of disciplines, he has certainly been around. Richards has started 446 races over his life with over 57 podium finishes to his name. To add to his outstanding résumé, the New Zealander has also won four Bathurst 1000s and the 2014 Australian Porsche Carrera Cup series. Richards is currently competing in the Australian GT Championship in his Laser Plumbing BMW M6 GT3, so we sat down with him to get his thoughts and opinions on a few things.
“The season so far has shown signs of promise,” says Richards. “Earlier in the year at the [Bathurst] 12 Hours we qualified inside the top five and ran there during the race until we had the power steering problem. So that definitely shows some good potential.
“In the Australian GT Championship, our M6 suites high speed, fast flowing circuits like Phillip Island, but in opposite, struggles a bit on the street circuits. So expectations and results vary depending on the event.”
The four-time Bathurst 1000 champion elected a BMW M6 GT3 when he debuted his Australian GT team in 2016 at Clipsal. Why BMW?
“The main reason we chose BMW when we started up our GT team was that we knew BMW had a new car coming and it was a case of going to see the people at BMW Australia to see if they were interested in a motorsport program, because they’d been out of it for a while.
“They were, and that’s really how we went down that path to get to where we are now. Getting the BMW customer support, our product can basically represent the ‘M’ brand and essentially becomes one of their marketing tools.”
Richards organizes the finances, paperwork, all the garage side of things as well as driving in the car himself, so what does he think about it all?
“There are so many challenges when it comes to running a race team, things like making sure that all of your resources and logistics are set in place and also planning when you are going testing and racing and all that. Another thing is making sure you are on top of all the ‘lifed components’ that are in the car, such as the gearbox, engine, electronics. But in saying that, BMW give us a handbook of things to run by and then of course you learn things as you go as well in terms of things that need to be done.”
Over the last few years, the Australian GT Championship has seen a massive explosion in interest. With teams like Eggleston Motorsport, Tekno Autosports, Walkinshaw Racing all extending their Australian motorsports involvement into the GT scene. All this national attention brings the series to critical cross-roads with organizers facing major decisions.
“GT3 racing in Australia has been one of the highest growing classes in the last two, three years and it’s definitely on a good path, but it’s also now how the growth is managed and I think that’s probably a challenge Australian GT has, to put our product out there and create an even bigger demand for it.”
“Supercars Australia and Australian GT complement one another because on one side you’ve got the Supercars championship where the racing is exceptional, the rules and regulations are set so that the competition is very equal.
“And then on the other side you’ve got these cool cars that are what you would call dream cars, cars people would love to own or drive. I think that brings a whole different element of people to the race track and an event to come see our style of racing.”
As the Australian GT Championship stretches across the country, we turn our attention north to Townsville. The narrow high-speed street circuit blows the competition wide open with a combination of fast flowing corners and some twisty bits too. In theory, the Townsville street circuit should suit a high aero, low drag car. But that’s just a theory, because the track might not favour the BMW M6 GT3 as much as you’d expect it to.
“As we head into Townsville, our expectations are to improve on where we were last year with the car. All the things we’ve implemented we are starting to see the benefits of them, but I think, as we’ve learnt over the last twelve months, those styles of circuits don’t necessarily suit our package as well as some of the other manufacturers’ do. But we are definitely eyeing a top five and hopefully a podium.”