KMART Racing Team driver Steven Richards can join his father Jim and a select group of drivers who have won three straight Bathurst 1000 titles by winning the endurance classic at Mount Panorama on Sunday.
Only three drivers in the history of the Great Race have won a hat-trick of titles in consecutive years - Jim Richards (1978, ‘79, ‘80), Peter Brock (1978, ‘79, ‘80 and 1992, ‘93, ‘94) and Larry Perkins (1982, ‘83, ‘84).
Steven Richards won his first classic in 1998 with Jason Bright in a Falcon, then teamed with Greg Murphy in a Commodore to win last year.
Richards and Murphy have joined forces again this year, Murphy also gunning for three Bathurst titles having won his first with Craig Lowndes in 1996.
Richards yesterday played down the significance of his achievements, insisting it was a team effort and he was paid to win races.
“Greg and I are employed to drive the cars, we’re not employed to finish fifth or 10th ... we’re employed to win races,’’ he said.
Richards likened the team’s build-up to Bathurst to that of last year and said the team had continually improved in the Shell Championship series after struggling early to keep pace with the leading contenders.
The Commodore they will drive has never raced at Bathurst but Richards said this wasn’t a disadvantage.
“Building a new V8 supercar and racing it straight away at a circuit like Bathurst is not a big deal these days because the base set up is the same as we’ve used and developed all year and our pit crews have reliability down pat,’’ he said.
“It’s the car that Murph has been using since Calder and the one that finished third at the Queensland 500. It’s an evolution of the car with some newer components on it so I’m confident that it’ll do the job required.’’
Richards said the team carried no extra pressure despite being defending champions.
“Last year’s result holds absolutely no relevance to this year’s, so you have to go in with fresh thinking,’’ he said.
“I personally don’t feel any more pressure being defending race winners because every year throws up a different set of challenges to deal with over the course of the race.
“If we have a good day, then we will be in the ball park.’’
Murphy said the team was even better prepared this year.
“The damage from the Indycar races certainly didn’t help things but the team is on top of a lot more compared to this time in ‘99, so the damage is more like a small dent in our preparation rather than a large hole,’’ he said.
Murphy said it would be “tougher this time around to pull it off”, adding the team’s strategy would unfold in line with the race.
“This year I believe we have the potential to qualify inside the top five,’’ he said.