Local friends and fans of New Zealand-born V8 Supercar driver Jason Richards will be able to pay their respects at a memorial service in Auckland on Waitangi Day (Monday February 06).
Born in Nelson but based for much of his motor racing career in Australia, Richards, 35, died in Melbourne on Thursday December 15 2011 after a 14-month battle with a rare form of cancer, Adrenocortical Carcinoma.
He was farewelled across the Tasman at a private funeral in Melbourne later that month and a public service at Sandown Raceway on Monday January 09.
The spokesperson for the group organising Waitangi Day's New Zealand service says it was important to Jason's Dad, Dave Richards, to give the New Zealand friends and fans a chance to say their final farewells to one of motorsport's true blue good guys.
Dave and Pauline Richards will be joined at the service by Jason's wife Charlotte and a number of speakers who have had long-standing links with Richards including racing drivers Hamish Cross, John Crawford, Craig Baird, Angus Fogg and Greg Murphy, New Zealand motorsport personalities Greg Horne and Stephen Kennedy, and Terry McEwen from Holden New Zealand.
They will cover Jason's career starting from his karting days.
The venue, the Giltrap Audi building, is at 150 Great North Road in Grey Lynn, Auckland.
The service will start at 1.00pm and is expected to conclude at around 3.30pm.
Jason Richards' motorsport career started at age eight when he began Karting in Nelson. Over the next eight years he won 35 class championship titles before graduating to cars.
After a brief stint in the Mini 7 Championship, he moved into Formula Ford spending time in both New Zealand and the UK in the category. He then returned to New Zealand to sign with BMW Motorsport NZ as the International Motorsport team's junior driver, winning the Class 1 Touring Car Championships for the team in 1995/96, along with nine out of 12 series races.
He finished second in the NZ Touring Car Championship in 1997/1998 then won the following three championships in a row before making his debut in the V8 Supercar series at Bathurst in 2000 partnering Angus Fogg in the Team Kiwi Racing Commodore finishing 16th.
This result catapulted Richards into a full-time professional driving position with Team Kiwi Racingfor the next two years.
In 2003 Richards moved to the fledgling Team Dynamik, based in Adelaide. After a slow start, the team showed great promise in the second half of the season with several top-ten qualifying performances and a fifth-place finish at Oran Park.
In fact Richards only narrowly missed out on snatching victory from Mark Skaife in the Sandown 500. Attempting a passing move up the inside in the dying stages of the race, contact between the two broke a steering arm causing Richards to run off the track.
In 2004 Richards moved to Tasman Motorsport, where he stayed for five years. He impressed onlookers with his comeback from a major rollover in 2005 at Queensland Raceway, putting the repaired Commodore straight back in the top 10 a few weeks later at Oran Park Raceway. Earlier that year podium results in the 2005 Sandown and Bathurst endurance events had already cemented his reputation as a rising star of the V8 Supercar category. He backed it up in 2007 when he and Greg Murphy finished first of the Holdens at Bathurst (fourth overall) followed by a third-overall result at Surfers Paradise and another Bathurst podium in 2008. In 2009, Richards moved to Brad Jones Racing and Team BOC. He qualified eighth on his debut at Adelaide and finished fifth but the team struggled with consistency. The season highlights were a pole position at Darwin, his and the team’s first-ever, and a third podium finish at the Bathurst 1000 after a brilliant late race stint saw him chase down the leader to just 0.7 seconds.
2010 should have been Richards most successful year to date. He was sitting a career-best 13th in the championship when he was forced to exit due to& his shock cancer diagnosis. His best finish of the season was third-place with Andrew Jones at the Phillip Island endurance event.
In 2011 Jason Bargwanna filled in for Richards as the latter continued his battle against cancer but Richards made a one-off comeback for the non-championship AGP support round finishing second on Saturday despite the discomfort and difficulty in breathing caused by the cancer.
Richards'last appearance in a V8 Supercar was at Darwin’s Hidden Valley where he took part in the co-driver practice session, still determined to partner Jason Bright in that year’s endurance events. He set the pace throughout the 30-minute session, finishing third behind two drivers with the softer, faster tyres.
Finally, Richards' last competitive race was at Bathurst on the Sunday in the Muscle Car Masters class race, where he drove a Holden HQ Monaro to second place, breaking the track record along the way.
The way the drivers in the V8 Supercars and even drivers as far afield as in Europe and the United States rallied around while he was fighting his illness is proof of Jason Richards' standing and respect in motor racing circles. A quote from Jason Bright (BOC team mate) says it all.
"God now has my four favourite drivers in his team: Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna, Peter Brock and Jason Richards. RIP buddy."
Jason Richards saved his best for last by dealing with adversity as a true champion and will be forever remembered as 'motorsport's fastest smile.'
Jason Richards Memorial Service
Giltrap Audi Centre
150 Great North Road
Grey Lynn, Auckland
Monday (Waitangi Day), February 06, 2012