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Stanaway's full circle moment after retirement

Supercars
09 Oct
'I definitely felt like I made the right decision at the time… I felt like I'd forgotten how to drive'
3 mins by James Pavey
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  • New Bathurst winner Richie Stanaway retired from racing in 2019

  • Kiwi lured out of retirement to race Bathurst wildcard with Greg Murphy

  • Van Gisbergen and Stanaway dominated 2023 Great Race on Sunday

New Bathurst winner Richie Stanaway has admitted he thought his decision to retire from racing at the end of 2019 was the right decision, before he was lured back to the sport.

Stanaway combined with Shane van Gisbergen to win Sunday’s Repco Bathurst 1000, with the former open-wheel star taking his first Great Race win.

It marked another extraordinary chapter in Stanaway’s career, given he gave racing away altogether after a torrid two years in the full-time game in Supercars.

After winning the 2017 Sandown 500 as a co-driver, Stanaway was parachuted into a full-time drive with Tickford Racing. The year didn’t go well, and a season with Garry Rogers Motorsport went no better.

Two seasons of poor results and criticism over his attitude ended in retirement. That retirement ended with a co-drive alongside hero Greg Murphy for the 2021 Great Race, which was eventually delayed by COVID-19.

Final lap: van Gisbergen scores Triple Eight's 10th Bathurst win

It came around again in 2022, and Stanaway qualified the car in the top 10 before racing to 11th with Murphy. Triple Eight had seen enough, signing Stanaway to partner van Gisbergen after the departure of Garth Tander.

In the 12 months since, Stanaway returned to the Sandown podium, inked a full-time comeback for 2024 with Grove Racing, and won the Great Race — but he still thinks he had made the right call at the start, before his life evolved.

"I definitely felt like I made the right decision at the time. I wasn't regretting it and I was enjoying my time away actually,” he said.

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"I had enough time between stopping racing and the wildcard opportunity to just be open to the idea of coming back and then it kind of just progressed from there really.

"Doing the wildcard last year... I was still very unsure if I was just gonna come back to co-drive and be around a little bit, but not full-time. 

"Then as the year progressed, I got more and more certain that I wanted to come back racing full-time. The confidence was pretty low after 2018 and 2019. I felt like I'd forgotten how to drive basically. 

"Now joining a great team like this and it's just given me a huge boost in my confidence again."

Van Gisbergen and Stanaway celebrate in PIRTEK Victory Lane

Stanaway added that driving with Murphy and van Gisbergen helped renew his love for the sport: "It helped a lot, driving with both of them.

“[They]re] two of the most iconic drivers from New Zealand. To drive with Greg last year – I needed that inspiration to come back. Same again this year driving with Shane. 

"It's just inspired me to get the most out of myself and come back and do things properly.

“[Bathurst victory] is a feeling I can't describe really. I remember being a young kid sitting in that grandstand right there, watching.

"Winning this race has been a childhood dream of mine. To have it come true is such a surreal feeling. I can't describe it.”

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