Seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Jim Richards says it was the introduction of new manufacturers into V8 Supercars that renewed his interest in the sport.
Describing the inclusion of Nissan and Mercedes-Benz in the series as fantastic, Richards was one of the legendary drivers united at Darling Harbour in Sydney yesterday, marking the return of the makes to the Mountain next month.
“You could say I was getting a little bit blasé about it, the way that it was,” Richards said of V8 Supercars.
“But now the Nissan, Benz and Volvo coming back in (for 2014) – because I have a history with Volvo as well – I think it’s the best thing ever. So I’ve got a renewed interest.”
Richards, along with most of the eight drivers present, suggested the new manufacturers could give Holden and Ford a run for their money.
“I’m sure they will. No one knows how they’re going to go up there and from what I’ve seen this year, Nissan had its first win at Winton and Benz aren’t far away.
“Benz probably could’ve won a race at Winton as well if they hadn’t speared off, so you never know what’s going to happen up there.”
Richards laughed he hadn’t been asked to co-drive at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 this year – his last time competing in a V8 Supercar there was 2006 – though he holds the record for the most starts with a whopping 35.
Richards last won the Bathurst 1000 in 2002 with Mark Skaife, 10 years after the pair piloted a Nissan GT-R to a controversial win in the wet.
And while Richards didn’t speak out on the infamous incident, ‘The Enforcer’ Russell Ingall sure did.
“It’s been a lot of years since we’ve seen other manufacturers on the Mountain, bar Holden and Ford,” the Supercheap Auto Commodore driver said.
“To this day, I remember the reception when the Nissan ended up winning in those adverse conditions, when Jimmy Richards dragged that Nissan across the line and he gave the crowd a bit of a spray!
“I don’t think there will be a repeat of that, somehow – but it’s great to have the other manufacturers up there.
“It’s definitely added another element of excitement to the Championship this year and to go to the biggest endurance races – Sandown, and Bathurst with other manufacturers on board – like I said, it’s added a different dimension and I’m sure the crowd’s going to love it.”
Earlier this year, veteran Ingall announced he was set to retire from full-time V8 Supercars racing at the conclusion of the season. However, he still feels he has plenty of results to come as a main series driver this year and co-driver in the future.
“Absolutely, there are a few Bathursts left in me, even after this season.
“It’s a very important year for us, because we come into (the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000) with good credentials. And I don’t mean the Championship on a whole, but when you look at Adelaide and Townsville – the longer races we’ve had this year, the pit stop races – we’ve actually finished fourth and fifth... The big race is going to be no different.”
Ingall described this weekend’s Wilson Security Sandown 500 as a form guide for Bathurst, the 'entrée' as well as being an important race in its own right.