Senior statesman heads to Lismore
By DENNIS NEWLYN firstname.lastname@example.org WEST Australian Bill Richards is the senior statesman of Australian oval track racing and will behere to contest the National Formula 500 Championship at Lismore Speedway this weekend.
Richards, 75, says retirement is not in his plans. Richards' speedway career began in Perth in 1956 and he is the most experienced driver in the national title this season.
He has missed only one Australian Formula 500 Championship since the inaugural running in 1964 and while he has come close to victory several times, he still chases that elusive national title.
Richards is making his first trip to Lismore Speedway and he has spent the past 10 days travelling across the continent to participate in the event and also maintain his own incredible attendance aggregate.
He is still as keen about speedway as he was when he started racing back in the 1950s.
"It's like a disease, once you have it, you can't get rid of it," he said.
"I've enjoyed the friends I've made, the competition and just being a part of racing."
He says that today's Formula 500s are light years ahead of the car he drove when he started his career.
"Everything has changed with the cars," he said. "Construction, body shape, engines, tyres, just about everything; there would be nothing that has remained the same. It's like comparing hot rods of the past era to today's sprintcars."
He described his first speedway car as a tank with a Matchless engine - a far cry from the sleek Rotax frame, Yamaha R6 powered Formula 500 he will drive on Saturday and Sunday night at Lismore Speedway.
For virtually all his career he has built and maintained his own cars.
Richards is one of four drivers who have made the long haul from WA to contest the 2008 Australian Formula 500 Championship.
Drivers from six States have converged on Lismore for one of the biggest fixtures in the event's history.
The F500 national title has never been held in Lismore, so most competitors will be on neutral ground.
The defending champion is Victoria's Ben McLeod, who last season at Maryborough Speedway in Queensland.