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Ripping Yarns: Early Richards road trips

V8 SLEUTH is celebrating the festive season with a series of great racing tales from the Motorsport News archives.

Today’s story was told by Jim Richards for the 400th edition of MN in 2010.

There are plenty more ripping Richards yarns in his new book, Gentleman Jim: The Official Racing History of Jim Richards, available now in the V8 Sleuth Superstore.

When I first started racing in New Zealand, we had our annual trip at Christmas time and January.

It went from Baypark Raceway to Pukekohe, to Levin, which is down near Wellington, then we went over to the South Island and did the Lady Wigram Trophy in Christchurch, Teretonga, Invercargill and back to Ruapuna.

I used to tow my little 105E Anglia with a 105E Anglia van. Four of us used to go away with the car and because the van only had two seats and the back of it was full of camping gear, wheels and this and that, there was no room for anyone to ride in the van.

So my two other mates would ride in the racecar, which was towed on an A-Frame, with its wheels turning.

When we came to the hills and steep descents, the deal was that when they saw the brake lights come on in the van, they would push the brake on the racecar, so it slowed down, then you could travel a bit faster.

Lo and behold, we got off the boat, which travelled from Wellington to Picton, at about 11 at night and set off for Christchurch after we’d all had a few beers on the boat.

It was pitch black, which meant you could see the lights better, so I said, ‘we’ll be pressing on a bit, whenever you guys see my lights, brake’.

Richards heading past the stables approaching Turn 2 at Pukekohe in the mid-1960s. Pic: Richards Family Archive

As I was going down the hills, quite quickly with the little car on the back and tiny little drum brakes on the tow car, I was pressing the brake and the bloody thing wasn’t slowing down.

I was going wide in the corners, nearly having a lose and eventually, I finally got the car stopped and thought ‘what the bloody hell’s wrong with you guys!’ I went back and they were both asleep!

To stop that, we got a big piece of plastic hose – like a fuel hose with about a half-inch diameter – and we strung it out of the back doors of the van, across and up the bonnet and into the window of the racecar.

There weren’t telephones in those days, so it meant we could talk and whistle through the plastic tube to keep them awake and have a conversation.

They’d put the tube up to their ear when we whistled so they could hear what we were saying, but as the trip went on, we’d whistle up through the tube, get a mouthful of fluid and blow soft drink through the tube into their ears!

MORE: Jim Richards on the V8 Sleuth Podcast

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