As a life long non-smoker, it comes as a surprise to some that I love JPS Black and Gold. I’ve written before about how, as someone exposed to cigarette advertising from a young age, I should be burning my way through 80 a day, but I’ve never touched a single one. However, I’m really pleased to see that one of my favourite racing touring cars from yesteryear will be making its European debut at this summer’s Silverstone Classic (28-30 July).
Indeed, the Classic will be the first time that the striking JPS 635 CSi has ever been seen outside its native Australasia. Moreover, the black and gold icon will be piloted by none other than ‘Gentleman’ Jim Richards, its original driver.
As a seven-time winner of the legendary Bathurst 1000 race and with multiple Australian touring car titles under his belt, Richards needs little introduction to motor sport aficionados and his presence at the Classic will be special.
Richards and the stunning BMW 635 CSi first joined forces in 1983 racing for the renowned Frank Gardner Racing team. Back then, Australia had its own Group C touring car regulations permitting more freedom than the more widely adopted Group A rulebook.
Although the ‘Black Beauty’ won the hearts of many fans, at first success was limited against an opposition armed with more powerful V8 propelled Fords and Holdens.
However, when Australia finally adopted the international Group A formula in 1985, the combination proved utterly unstoppable – Richards winning seven of the ten rounds and, with them, the inaugural Australian Touring Car Championship title. In a golden year for JPS Team BMW, Richards also went undefeated in the AMSCAR Series and then added the Australian Endurance Championship crown by winning five out of six races.
The illustrious BMW was still in this less tuned Group A specification when acquired by its current owner, New Zealand collector Peter Sturgeon. However, Richards and Pip Baker, who had worked with Frank Gardner back in the day, convinced Sturgeon to put the 635 back into its more dramatic Group C guise.
“Pip adopted the project and it took him almost 18 months to complete. It was worth all the effort, though, as the final result is utterly amazing,” enthused Sturgeon who is now flying the car half way round the world to be at the Silverstone Classic.
“The sound of the straight six, twin-cam engine revving at more than 8000rpm is something all petrol heads should hear,” he continued. “In Group C form, this is the one and only 24-valve engined BMW 635 ever raced and to have Jim back driving it is very, very special.”
More than 30 years on, Richards is every bit as excited to be back behind the wheel of such a magnificent and important machine.
“It’s a beautiful car, I’m so glad we persuaded Peter to put it back in what we called Group C specification, as those rules were a bit more liberal than Group A, more widely used at the time. It now looks absolutely stunning with its big arches and a 24-valve motor which revs to around 8,400rpm and sounds glorious even with a muffler.”
Richards and the utterly unique BMW 635 CSi will be competing on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Classic in the two spectacular JET Super Touring Car Trophy showdowns which will feature two stellar grids racing simultaneously.
We really hope that this won’t be the only European outing for the 635CSi. I can’t help but think that the sight of this car over the top of Eau Rouge revving out beyond 8,000 will make the hairs stand on end.