ON this day 10 years ago, the Adelaide 500 witnessed one of its truly greatest victories.
Jason Richards’ triumph in Race 2 of the Development Series round on Saturday of the 2011 event was a moment to savour for the man himself, and everyone who was fortunate enough to witness it.
Richards had been in hospital just days out from the event, undergoing treatment for a rare and aggressive form of cancer he’d been diagnosed with the previous November.
It was there he received a call from team boss Kevin Murphy, offering him a drive in one of Greg Murphy Racing’s ex-Tasman Motorsport Holden Commodores for the weekend.
“I was not sure that I was going to do it,” Richards reflected at the end of the weekend. “But I woke up the next morning and thought, ‘You know, why not? Let’s give it a go.’ And I did.”
Richards’ emotional triumph is one of many events captured in our upcoming book Sensational Adelaide: The Illustrated History of the Adelaide 500, which can be pre-ordered here.
Initially, Richards planned to drive in practice and then assess his ability to contest the remainder of the weekend.
Richards had not raced since receiving the cancer diagnosis on the eve of the Sandown round of the 2010 V8 Supercars Championship, but he had undertaken pre-season track testing with Team BOC.
He was already scheduled to make his racing return in Adelaide via the Australian GT Championship, co-driving Pete Edwards’ Ferrari in the Murray Walker Tourist Trophy race.
Technical issues ended the Ferrari’s race before half-distance, but there were no such problems in the Development Series.
Richards built up to it slowly, qualifying 12th and finishing in that same position during the Friday afternoon race, which set the starting positions for Saturday.
Some heads-up driving from Richards and mistakes from key contenders allowed the GMR Holden to rise to the lead within nine laps of the decider, and he held on for victory.
Typically, Richards downplayed what was by any measure a remarkable achievement.
“I was just the man on the spot, really; I did not do anything too special!” he said. “Everyone else tripped up over themselves and I was in the right spot.”
Although modest in victory Richards made no secret of what racing meant to him during such a difficult period.
“Cancer is just as much a mental problem as it is physical,” he said.
“This weekend for me was all about treatment and obviously, it has given that to me. This is the best part of my treatment.”
Having just finished a cycle of chemotherapy, the physical effort was also not to be underestimated.
“I didn’t have a drink bottle in the car that worked, so I was just wobbling around there,” he said.
“Most of my fitness has been consumed by walking between the Ferrari pit and the [Development Series] pit and the Team BOC garage!
“I kid you not, I have walked a marathon this weekend and the easy bit has been driving the car!”
For the record, the weekend’s Development Series action also featured other notable achievements: a maiden round win for Nick Percat and first round podium for Scott McLaughlin.
Triple Eight’s eventual series winner Andrew Thompson had won Race 1 but was spun by Percat in Race 2; the latter recovered from a drive-through penalty to rescue the round result.
Richards made a return to the Supercars main game the following weekend at the non-championship Albert Park event with Brad Jones Racing, memorably scoring second place in Race 2.
While he raced other cars during the year, including in the Touring Car Masters at Bathurst, sadly Albert Park remained his last Supercars race before passing away in December of 2011.