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Lakeside ClassiC speed Fest

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His reception after winning the 1992 Bathurst 1000 drove Jim Richards to profanity. Has time vindicated the champion driver?
In 1992 Jim Richards called the crowd at Bathurst arseholes after he and a young Mark Skaife tore the Australian Touring Car Championship a new one. The combination of Richards and the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R ended up altering the course of motor racing in Australia and making a legend of both man and machine. During the recent Lakeside Classic Speed Fest, JR and Godzilla were reunited. I remember that you called the crowd a bunch of arseholes, laughed a man with a moustache, keen to re-live Richards 1992 Bathurst victory speech on a sunny day at Lakeside Raceway almost 18 years after Richards made the comment. Yes I did, I dont take it back, Richards replied with a smile. The heckler wasnt quite accurate it was a Words Ben dillon Photos Nathan duff
MAIN PIC Jim Richards back in Godzilla. What the F.I.I.K. is that toggle for?

pack of rather than a bunch of but the affable Richards didnt correct the fans mistake. Instead he signed his poster with the calm that makes Jim Richards so approachable. That Gentleman Jim was driven to profanity at all was one of the most striking elements of an era that changed Australian motorsport and car culture. Between 1990 and 92 the intrigue and drama around the GT-Rs grew bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. Australian racing had never seen a car as devastating as the Skyline and the teams running other makes, especially the Holdens, must have felt they were using an abacus against the Skylines super-computer. With Richards and Skaife at the wheel, the Gibson Motor Sport team was unstoppable in 1991, and even carrying weight penalties in 1992, the GT-Rs laid waste to the opposition. Strangely, this run of success didnt endear the GT-Rs to the public or, it seems, to the racing officials. The 1992 season culminated in CAMS banning turbo-charged and four-wheel driven cars for the 1993 season. The regulators said costs associated with the Group A cars were the reason for the move toward what would eventually become the V8 Supercars series. But the Skylines stamping antique on the forehead of Australias beloved red lion and blue oval

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badges must have been a strong incentive as well. Come Bathurst in 1992, the stage was set for a showdown on and off the track. Behind closed doors, Ford and Holden had dictated that CAMS make touring car racing more affordable for the teams and accessible (acceptable as well?) to the masses, or the big two would move into other areas of racing. Public reaction to the domination of the GT-R was also becoming negative, with few wins by local Ford although they were all the European Sierras or Holden teams making the parochial crowds increasingly dissatisfied. Some would say Australian touring car racing has never been the same or as as good since the R32 Skylines left the track, but love or loathe the modern V8 Supercars series, the truth is that the fans at Bathurst in 1992 got exactly what they wanted. The current owner of the car that Richards and Skaife drove at the 1992 Tooheys 1000 is Terry Ashwood, who is proud as punch to be its custodian. Many regard it as the ultimate iteration of the Gibson-prepared GT-Rs. And the crowd at Lakeside were there for one reason. To see Godzilla. In contrast to 1992, talk around the paddock centred on how great the Skylines were and that things
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hadnt been the same since. One spectator in his 70s made it clear he hasnt been trackside for any top-tier motorsport since the GT-R last raced at Lakeside in May 1992. The crowd was a mix of ages, but even the YouTube generation seemed to know the legend of the GT-R. One girl asked Richards to sign her hat. I was only six years old in 1992, so this is the first time I have seen the car for real, she said. This GT-R affects all who see it. The car probably inspires more emotion in people here today, because most of them would have never seen it race, Richards said. [They have] just seen it in magazines or on the internet. The pit area where the GT-Rs were was highly visible from the far end of pit lane. Decked out with big Nissan flags and swarming with an endless stream of spectators, it was unmissable. The clank of rattle guns on the wheels added atmosphere in the Skyline garages, as the assembled throng experienced the sound, sights and smells of the GT-R. The pit crew was in period costume, with Winfield logos stretching across red overalls. Of course with the advancement of years some overalls were asked to stretch a little more than before. That was not true for former ATCC driver Mark Gibbs, who wore

octoBer 4, 1992: the day jim richards Bit Back...

Im just really stunned for words, I cant believe the reception. This is bloody disgraceful. Ill keep racing but I tell you what, this is going to remain with me for a long time youre a pack of arseholes.

the Gt-R inspires more emotion today, because most people would never have seen it race
his original GIO-sponsored overalls from 1992. That was also the last time he drove the car, garnering a respectable sixth overall at Bathurst. They still fit. A few more bumps than before though, Gibbs smiled. The Peter Jackson-sponsored R31 Skyline in the next stable got a few appreciative nods, as did the VL Walkinshaw Commodore next to it, but there was some palpable jealousy in the paddock about the reception the GT-Rs received. Ashwood lightened the mood by sneaking down to the Walkinshaw camp and slapping a Nissan Motorsport sticker on the back window of the Commodore. The VL did use a Nissan engine when it came out, one of the Winfield crew said. The sticker wasnt discovered until after the Commodore came in from its next run. The Holden crew joked that the sticker slowed the car down, then called the Nissan camp a pack of arseholes. The GT-R squatted down off the pneumatic jacks, front then rear, and dug its claws into the tarmac. It was definitely Godzilla. On start up, the R32 sounded just like a street GT-R, burbling through a large diameter exhaust. Terry Ashwood stepped into it as the Group A and C cars were called onto the track. It was his fifth and final run of the weekend before Jim Richards jumped in the hot seat for the much anticipated demo run that would feature the Group A and C cars together with Mark Gibbs in the GIO GT-R and Kevin Bartlett in the Bowdens ex-Longhurst Sierra. A rolling start added theatre to the proceedings. The sound as the cars hammered away from the green light after the warm-up lap was incredible as was the staccato of Terry missing a gear and hitting the GT-Rs rev limiter. Whoops! His slip-up left the Skyline behind the leaders for less than a lap, and he was soon at the front of the pack again. Rod Markland in his GIO GT-R, Brett Maddren in an orange Ford Mustang from the 80s, and Ashwood had a great on-track stoush, each taking turns at leading and definitely stretching the capabilities of cars and drivers. As the Winfield and GIO Skylines rocketed down the main straight, a stone-faced V8 fan in a Holden shirt nudged his mate. F**k that thing goes! he said. It wasnt called Godzilla just for fun. The GT-R was a real monster. At the top of the track the Group A and C cars completed a warmdown lap as the crowd applauded. Back in the pits, the cars sat waiting for Richards and Gibbs to take them out one last time. One of the Winfield crew, ex-motoring scribe Mark Hooker, pointed out a special switch in the GT-R cockpit. It is said this switch leaves grown men reluctant to speak. It is labelled F.I.I.K. Hooker said, which stands for F***ed If I Know. While not the most eloquent acronym, it is accurate according to several people involved with the Gibson GT-R. Terry was a little cagey when asked about the toggle. It is a three-way switch that the drivers were told to move up or down by the pits during the race depending on the cars position in the field. The drivers never knew what it was for, hence the F.I.I.K name. Ashwood turned to Richards

a fact often overlooked about the 1992 Great Race is that former F1 driving legend, Denny Hulme, suffered a massive heart attack and died while driving down Conrod Straight at 234km/h. Hulme was Richards close friend and a fellow Kiwi, and the grief may well have come out in his speech.
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the skyline was just how i remembered it... like the vibration in the steering when you throttle off...
and very quietly asked Jim if he remembered the F.I.I.K. switch. Richards face lit up. Oh, yeahyeah-yeah. I havent got a clue what its for! he laughed. Its an engine performance or fuel economy type thing probably. Either Jim is an incredibly honest man, or he is the best politician the world has ever seen. Suddenly it was time to get in and belt up for the demonstration session. Handing over their cars to Richards and Gibbs, Ashwood and Markland were visibly nervous. The Lakeside marshals asked if the pair wanted a stopwatch to see how much faster the original drivers were than the current owners. Ashwood and Markland feigned amusement at the marshals suggestion. We dont want to know how bad we are, Rod said. When asked how the pair felt about entrusting their cars to former racing drivers, Ashwood said, Its like seeing your daughter go out on her first date. The marshals made a joke about lending tools or wives to friends, the punch-line being the condition
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the loaned items were usually returned in. No-one laughed. At one point, when Richards and Gibbs flew past the pits, Rod nervously joked: Okay Mark, thats fast enough! As the cars circulated lap after lap, everyone started to think Richards and Gibbs might stay on the track until they ran out of fuel. The demonstration was supposed to be five laps, but the marshals were too busy watching the display of control shown by these well-seasoned experts to even think about ending it. For the majority at Lakeside, this was the main event. Out of the couple of thousand people watching this glorious meeting of legends flesh and metal only two wanted to see it end. As the laps piled up, Ashwood trotted off to find a marshal to wave the chequered flag. In the pits all was relaxed and friendly as Gibbs and Richards relayed to the assembled crowd (which stood five-deep around the garage) what it was like to be back at the helm. It was just like it used to be,

just how I remembered it, said Richards. The little traits that I would have struggled to remember before driving the car now come back very clearly. The vibration in the steering when you throttle off into a corner, but that goes away on half-throttle out of the corner. Also getting a sore thumb muscle from having [a lot of] torque going to the front wheels. Richards and Gibbs were glowing after the reunion. As Richards walked back down pit lane, spectators hounded him for autographs and asked about driving the GT-R, or reminisced about their own memories of the good old days. Vindication came as the stove top tail-lights of Skyline after Skyline rolled out of the carpark. Whether any of those seated in the Nissans ever chanted bullshit 18 years earlier is irrelevant. The power of Godzilla changed what we consider performance cars to be in Australia and opened many minds to a new car culture that has surpassed the popularity levels Ford and Holden V8s enjoyed in their prime.

If you look closely at the footage of Richards speech available on YouTube you can see Mark Skaife mouthing parts of Jims speech (not the arsehole bit, though). Whether or not the speech was prepared for them is a matter to debate with mates at the pub.

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