This is quite possibly the finest racing BMW ever

Classic JPS-liveried BMW 635 CSI racer is on its way here from the Land of Oz

BMW 635 CSI JPS Racecar 1

Ooo. Who’s a pretty boy, then?
This exquisite slice of automotive exotica is perhaps the most desirable 635 CSi we’ve ever seen – a JPS-liveried, Group C racer.

That’s right; none of this ‘evocation’, ‘reproduction’ or ‘homologation’ nonsense – this is the real deal, and it’s about to turn a wheel in anger again, for the first time since its beautiful – and rather sonorous – debut in the 1980s.

BMW 635 CSI JPS Racecar 2

Sonorous, you say.
Indeed we do – a twin-cam, 24-valve, naturally aspirated BMW straight six nudging the limiter at 8,400rpm is the kind of thing that puts a twinge through your delicates.

And, at this year’s Silverstone Classic, you can hear it unleashing the full noise again, when it takes to the track with Jim Richards at the helm, just like it did back in the 1980s.

BMW 635 CSI JPS Racecar 3

I’m pretty sure I would have remembered seeing this at Silverstone the first time around. What gives?
There’s the rub, dear reader – this is the first time it’s ever been over this side of the planet.

That’s because it spent all of its time racing around the rather warm and intermittently kangaroo-infested racetracks of Australia. And, as well as habitually upstaging the grid girls, it was exceptionally brisk.

It started off in Australian Group C racing – a class famous for the kind of lenient regulations that’d cause catalepsy in a sub-prime lender – but its real success came when Australia adopted international Group A regulations in 1985. With the tables turned, the 635 CSi proceeded to mop the floor with the V8 Fords and Holdens that had thrived under Group C, taking seven wins from ten races and claiming the Australian Touring Car Championship title.

With Jim Richards in the cockpit, the JPS-sponsored 635 also won every round of the AMSCAR Series (it’s an Australian race series that used to be a big deal) and also claimed the Australian Endurance Car Championship.

BMW 635 CSI JPS Racecar 4

Remind me – who’s Jim Richards again?
We’re very glad you asked. Aside from being an exceptionally talented racer, he’s also responsible for one of the better racing anecdotes we know of.

Richards, a New Zealander, raced in various disciplines and countries, including touring cars in Australia.

And racing in the land of melanoma and spiders is a bit unique. By now, you’ve surely heard that Australians are rather keen on either Fords and Holdens, and ne’er the twain shall meet. And don’t even think about anything that isn’t from Ford or Holden.

Similarly, by now, you will have heard of the Nissan R32 GT-R, and just how brisk it is. For a very brief period, it actually raced in the Australian Touring Car championship, earning a reputation as an unbeatable piece of machinery and a nickname – Godzilla, the monster from Japan.

In 1992, Jim Richards and then-youngster Mark Skaife raced at Australia’s best and most famous circuit – Mount Panorama in Bathurst. It was an especially vicious race; the fractious weather turned and unleashed a deluge on the mountain, turning the 1000km endurance race into a battle for survival. Unfortunately, not everyone did survive – former F1 driver Denny Hulme suffered a heart attack and died on Conrod Straight, his blurred vision misattributed to the torrential rain.

Elsewhere, the race had descended into a demolition derby. Finally, after Jim Richard’s Nissan GT-R aquaplaned into the tight concrete walls that line the track – he was caught out and still using slicks – the race was called off and Richards and Skaife were declared the winners ahead of Dick Johnson (yes, that’s his real name) in a Ford Sierra RS500. And you can imagine how the fans responded.

Normally a man of few and gentle words, Richards, freshly informed of good friend Hulme’s death, took to the podium amid a bombardment of abuse and half-empty tins of lager.

“I’m just really stunned for words,” he said when he reached the podium, addressing both the live TV stream and the booing and braying mob of polyester-clad inebriates.

“I just can’t believe the reception. I thought Australian race fans had a lot more to go than this… this is bloody disgraceful. I’ll keep racing, but I’ll tell you what – this is going to remain with me for a long time. You’re a pack of a***holes.”

With that, he turned and walked off the podium.

BMW 635 CSI JPS Racecar 5

What a champ.
And then some. And, in the great spirit of Australian larrikinism, when he returned to Mount Panorama the next year, race fans were sporting shirts that said, “I’m an a***hole – Jim Richards told me.” So he got out his pen and signed them.

So, you have some idea of the man who’ll once again face off against Ford Sierra RS500s at Silverstone in late July. We have it on good authority that the JPS BMW has been restored to properly mental Group C spec, so it’ll be one hell of a tussle…

Author: TopGear
TopGear is the world’s best-selling motoring magazine. The Malaysian edition holds similar status, as acknowledged by the industry.