David Richards interview: “We finished and the car was bent in half”
After co-driving Ari Vatanen to the World Rally Championship title in 1981, David Richards had developed a good relationship with the sponsors of his Ford Escort RS1800, Rothmans cigarettes.
The following year, Richards was helping Rothmans set up their Formula One team in collaboration with chassis constructors, March. Despite tasting success in the Seventies (thanks to the likes of Jackie Stewart and Ronnie Peterson) March was a shadow of its former self by 1982, leading to Richards seeking out an alternative path for Rothmans’ motosport strategy.
How did the Rothmans Porsche rally team come about?
During ’83 we started talking then about my real aspirations: to build a rally team. They said, “We’ve got the 959 coming which will be a Group B rally car”. And I said, “Okay, let’s work towards a rally programme and contest the world championship”. But they said, “It’s going to be two or three years away. Why don’t we do an interim programme?”
How did your first event with the 911 go?
The first event we went to was Qatar in February, or March, of ’84. We took the car straight out the box and Jürgen Barth said, “It should be fit to do anything, it’ll be fine”.
Anyway, we won the rally but, by the time we finished the event the car was virtually bent in half. We brought it back and we sat down with David Lapworth, who had just joined the team.
What was the greatest success of the 911?
I think the greatest success, I look back on that fourth place in the Acropolis Rally as a stand out result. For Saaed, that was probably his best result on a World Championship event, for us as a team it was a great result.
How important was that car in Prodrive’s development?
Really, I look back on those days and it was very important car for us, the 911. It set us on our way in terms of our credentials in rallying.
To read our full interview with David Richards, head of rallying legends Prodrive, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 109 online now. Alternatively you can download it to view our Rothmans 911 SC RS test drive in all its glory.