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3 JULY 2011

Richards and the one of a kind Porsche 961 Seven time Bathurst 1000 winner, and reigning Touring Car Masters champion, Jim Richards has returned to the hallowed grounds of Lord March's Goodwood House for the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Invited to drive the rare Porsche 961, the only one of its type ever built by the German motoring house, Richards was keen to have his time on the hillclimb circuit after the delight of his 2010 visit to the Goodwood Revival driving a 1956 Morris Minor.

The Porsche 961 was based on the 959 chassis, but never did see it's true opportunity, completing just three races before retirement from the tarmac. The 961 is effectively a 959 with a modified four wheel drive system that at the time was uncommon in sports car racing machines, but was allowable under the Group B regulations of the era. The modified system provides more power to the rear wheels, while the driver adjustable damper and suspension systems were removed, in order to achieve greater reliability for the endurance racing program.

The flat six engine is a Porsche Type-935, a twin turbocharged unit. The engine provides higher boost and creates an output of 680hp (510 kW), with lighter body panels reducing weight, while the rear wing and front panels were replaced with modified aero designs for greater down force to assist the Dunlop rubber.

Having debuted at the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hour, the vehicle didn't have the hoped pace, but reliability saw it persist and move from 26th to seventh in its inaugural outing. Going on to compete at the 1986 Daytona International Speedway and again at Le Mans in 1987, the 961 hadn't shown results and it's short lived racing career ended when there was no championship where the 961 could compete, and so retired to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart until this weekend's 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Richards completed four demonstration runs of the 1.5mile hillclimb course as part of the endurance vehicle showcase, accompanied by the renowned Rothmans Porsche 956, Lancia LC2, 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour winning Audi R18 TDI and the stunning Mercedes Benz SLS GT3. Limited, but still achieving speeds in excess of 100mph (160kmph), the Australian motoring legend was thrilled to be just the fifth driver of the rare Porsche.

Jim Richards,
"The 961 had damage after its final Le Mans race accident and fire so Porsche restored it and here it is back on tarmac so I'm incredibly pleased to be just the fifth driver."

"The first run was an introduction to the car for me and a demonstration for the motoring enthusiasts, not to go at speed. It was really good to drive, a lot nicer than I thought because sometimes the older cars are reasonably 'agricultural' to drive, but this was terrific.

"The other runs were all again demos, but I went a little faster and harder each time, bearing in mind we're not here to break any records. The cars not set up for this with wet weather tyres and you only just get out of third gear up the hill with the very tall gearing but it really is a terrific drive.

"The car has a lot of lag so it's a long wind up and at one stage going down the hill I put it in low gear to see if it had boost, but it just doesn't get boost until about five or six thousand revs and then you know you're moving.

"Comparisons between the Porsche and the Sprint… they both go forward and change gear, and that's about where it ends.

"This has been my first time here at the festival and it's such a fantastic event which has been even bigger and better than the revival was which is hard to imagine.

"I've been amazed at the amount of Aussies who have come over for this particular event and come up to say hi, so more than the pleasure of driving the Porsche, it's been great to see so many people from my racing history and so many avid Aussie fans. When it comes down to it, we're all here to be a part of this incredible motoring event."

Richards will return to Australian shores to continue development of his Falcon Sprint in the lead in to round four of the 2011 championship at Muscle Car Masters, Eastern Creek International Raceway, 3-4 September.

The Touring Car Masters is proudly presented by Autobarn, and supported by Shannons Insurance, Rare Spares, Unique Cars Magazine and official suppliers Hoosier Tires and Australian Sports Marketing.

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