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David Richards

David Pender Richards CBE (b. 3 June 1952, Wales) is the chairman of Prodrive and Aston Martin, and a former team principal of the BAR and Benetton Formula One motor racing teams. He lives with his wife, Karen, in Warwickshire and has 3 children.

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Early career

After training as an accountant, Richards began his motorsport career as a rally co-driver. He partnered Ari Vatanen in a Ford Escort RS1800 from 1979 until the end of 1981. This was a short, but very successful partnership, winning the British Rally Championship in 1980 and the World Rally Championship together in 1981, shortly after which, Richards retired from co-driving.

In 1984 Richards co-founded Prodrive, a motorsport and automotive engineering group. In 1999 he sold 49% of Prodrive to Apax Partners.

Prodrive used to run the Subaru entry in the World Rally Championship and has employed such drivers as Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Richard Burns, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg.

Richards acquired the television and commercial rights to the World Rally Championship in 2000 when he bought International Sportworld Communicators (ISC) from Bernie Ecclestone. he has since sold these rights, which are now owned by North One TV.

Benetton

In 1997, when Flavio Briatore was fired as Director of the Benetton team, Richards replaced him. However, his tenure only lasted one year, as he could not agree a long term strategy with the team-owning Benetton family.

BAR

When the BAR team was restructuring after the departure of Craig Pollock in 2001, the owners BAT (British American Tobacco) brought in Prodrive to run the team with Richards as its Team Principal. Under his direction there was an improvement in performance, ultimately leading to the team taking second place in the 2004 Constructors' Championship. Richards also brought Jenson Button to the team and made him lead driver providing the majority of their championship points in 2004. This success led to BAT selling the team to Honda in late 2004. With Prodrive having completed its management contract with BAT, Richards stood down as Team Principal and Prodrive's then Managing Director Nick Fry assumed this role.[1]

Recent career

In the 2005 New Year Honours List Richards was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport.[2]

David Richards is also a major figure in the complex politics of the World Rally Championship and Formula One and is an advocate for measures to reduce the costs of car development as well as increasing safety.

His Prodrive company entered a bid to enter a Formula One team from 2008 and on 28 April 2006, Prodrive were officially granted entry when the FIA announced the list of entrants to the 2008 Formula One World Championship.[3] However, on November 22, 2007, he was forced to announce that Prodrive F1 would not be competing in the 2008 Formula One World Championship after a lack of clarity over the legality of 'customer cars' and the threat of possible legal action[4]. In May 2009, Prodrive also placed an entry for the 2010 F1 World Championship, however, all three new entries were given to teams using Cosworth engines, while Prodrive already had an agreement to use Mercedes engines.

In addition to Prodrive and Aston Martin, he sits on the advisory board of the Warwick Business School, is a trustee of the British Racing Drivers’ Club Benevolent Fund and is vice-president of BEN, the automotive industry’s benevolent fund.

On 12 March 2007 Ford announced it had sold the controlling stake of its Aston Martin brand to a consortium of investors, led by Richards and including Investment Dar and Adeem Investment, raising $925 million to finance the purchase.

On 16 September 2007 Richards and his wife, Karen, survived a helicopter crash in Essex whilst returning from the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix, less than 24 hours after his former WRC driver, Colin McRae, perished in a similar accident along with his son and two others.[5] Based on Prodrive's statement after the crash, Richards was piloting a Eurocopter EC 135 when he experienced mechanical problems, over Essex while travelling at about 1,500 ft. Already in contact with Stansted airport at that time, Richards managed to bring the aircraft safely down in a field before it rolled onto its side. Both Richards and his wife Karen walked away unharmed.[6]

In September 2008, Richards returned to rally co-driving duties when he took part in the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, a round of the Scottish Rally Championship centred in Perth in Scotland. He was co-driver once again to Ari Vatanen and they competed in the same Rothmans sponsored Ford Escort RS1800 that they used in 1981. He was one of a number of ex-world champions to take part in the event in memory of McRae, who died in 2007.

Honorary qualifications

In 2005, Richards was made an Honorary Graduate[7] of Cranfield University and awarded a DSc degree.

In 2009, he accepted an honorary degree of Master of Arts from Warwick University. Later the same year he was made an honorary Doctor of Technology by Coventry University.

Footnotes

References

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