PEOPLE: DAVID RICHARDS
Name: David Richards
Nationality: Great Britain
David Richards became fascinated by rallying when he first watched rally cars on a Welsh stage of the RAC Rally when he was 15 years old. He started road rallying as soon as he was 16 and as a co-driver won the British National Road Rallying Championship in its first year. While doing occasional rallies he had been studying to be an accountant but when he was successful he decided to see if he could make a living as a professional rally co-driver. He was offered a job with the British Leyland factory team in 1976 and ended up setting up a Lancia team for the British series in 1978. The following year he was hired by Ford and co-drove with Ari Vatanen, the pair winning the World Rally Championship in 1981.
By then Richards had begun working as a sponsorship consultant and he quit the sport at the end of the 1981 season and set up David Richards Autosport. His major client was Rothmans and he organized the March F1 program in 1982 and the Porsche sportscar program which followed. In 1984 Richards decided to establish his own team to run Porsche 911s in the Middle Eastern Rally Championship - with backing from Rothmans.
After success in the desert Richards began entering Porsches in European rallying events. At the end of 1985 he reorganized the company and renamed it Prodrive. The team switched to the Group B Metro 6R4 but when the FIA banned the rally supercars after Henri Toivonen's death Prodrive had to give up with Metro and turned instead to the BMW M3. The team hit the headlines in Corsica in 1987 when Bernard Beguin gave Prodrive the first World Rally Championship victory for a privateer team.
At the same time Prodrive entered the British Touring Car Championship with an M3 for Frank Sytner and in 1988-1989 the team ran both rally and racing versions of the M3, winning the BTCC title in 1988 with Sytner. That year the team moved from its original base at Silverstone to new premises in Banbury.
In 1989 the team signed a deal to develop a rallying program with Subaru and, backed by Rothmans, Colin McRae won the British Open Rally Championship for the team in 1991 and 1992. Richard Burns won Prodrive a third consecutive title in 1993 but by then McRae - with backing from British American Tobacco's 555 brand - was challenging for the World Rally Championship, which he won in 1995. The company gave Subaru three consecutive manufacturers championships in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Prodrive created an engineering division in 1991 to design and manufacture competition machinery and to do engineering consultancy work for the automotive industry.
In September 1997 Richards was appointed chief executive of Benetton Formula. He remained chairman of Prodrive but ran the F1 team as well. After failing to convince the Benetton Family to sell some of its shares to Ford, in exchange for a factory supply of engines, Richards quit the team in October 1998. A year later he sold 49% of Prodrive to a venture capitalist company and raised around $50m. Richards then acquired the rights to exploit the World Rally Championship from Bernie Ecclestone and set about building up the series in the course of 2000. At the end of 2001 Richards was appointed chief executive of British American Racing and played an important role in building up the team to be a challenger in F1 but when Honda took a bigger role in the team at the end of 2004 Richards was replaced by Nick Fry and so went back to Prodrive to mastermind the Aston Martin sports car programme and to build a prototype Prodrive road car.