THERE are so many unusual elements in this edition of Strange But True that it’s hard to know where to start.
Firstly, did you know that Jim Richards once raced at the Monaco Grand Prix?
Not in the Formula 1 race, but in a one-make support race for Jaguar’s then-new and ultra-exclusive supercar, the XJR-15.
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Built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing and mechanically based on the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning XJR-9 Group C sports car, only 50 examples were built and sold for the princely sum of GBP500,000 – about GBP960k today, which equates to AU$1.7 million.
A handful of the cars were slated to take part in the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge which supported three Formula 1 Grand Prix during 1991, starting with Monaco.
Most of the owners of the 16 cars slated to compete opted to recruit a professional racer to drive on their behalf, which is where Richards came into the picture.
He told the full story when he visited the V8 Sleuth Podcast in 2019 – listen to the tale in the player below!
However, one of the owners elected to drive themselves in that first race.
An owner who just happened to be a co-writer behind Rick Astley’s monumental hit Never Gonna Give You Up.
Matt Aitken was one third of the songwriting and producing powerhouse Stock Aitken Waterman, whose work filled the music charts in Australia, the United States and their native United Kingdom in the late 1980s.
Along with their success with Astley, Kylie Minogue’s early hits came with Stock Aitken Waterman, while Bananarama, Dead or Alive, Mel and Kim, Hazell Dean and Carol Hitchcock all had huge songs that were either written or produced – or both – by the trio.
Needless to say, Aitken became very wealthy off the back of his music career.
He purchased XJR-15 chassis 001 and raced it himself at Monaco, joining a grid that included the aforementioned Richards, along with F1 racers Derek Warwick and David Brabham, sportscar heroes Bob Wollek, Davy Jones and Juan Manuel Fangio II, and touring car stars Armin Hahne and David Leslie.
Richards qualified an impressive third behind only Warwick and Hahne and brought his Jaguar home in eighth, while Aitken qualified 13th and two places lower, having been lapped three times in the 16-lap race.
Watch highlights from the race in the player below, complete with commentary from Murray Walker.
While the Monaco race fell a week after the Winton ATCC round, Richards was unable to make the next round at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix – he was busy clinching his fourth Australian Touring Car Championship at Lakeside!
However, Richards returned for the final round at Spa-Francorchamps, which featured a US$1m winner-take-all prize for the victor!
He ended up qualifying 14th and finishing 10th in a bruising race that saw Thierry Tassin’s car left perched upon a tyre wall after tangling with Win Percy, and Warwick’s badly battered after a crash approaching the Bus Stop chicane, leaving Hahne to win the race and the US$1m prize.
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