This weekend's Hampton Downs 101 is a homecoming of sorts on many levels for veteran racer Steven Richards.

The four-time Bathurst winner still considers himself largely a New Zealander having been born in Auckland before moving with his father - legendary touring car driver Jim Richards - and family to Australia when he was a youngster.

Not only is he returning to race in the country of his birth but Richards will be one of the few Australian-based drivers in the field that has significant experience at the North Waikato circuit.

"I actually drove with John McIntyre's team in the inaugural NZ V8 SuperTourer team in 2012," the 44-year-old tells


"I've actually done quite a few laps there. We had the pre-season test there and I think we had a couple of rounds so I know the place reasonably well, which is quite good."

Of course the track has undergone significant work since then with owner Tony Quinn pumping millions of dollars into extending it by a kilometer as well as upgrading the facilities around the actual circuit.

The new layout will be unveiled for this week's 101-lap race, which serves as the third round of the four-round Australian GT Endurance Championship, with the first chance for all drivers to experience the upgrades in tomorrow's practice.

"Back when the circuit was first designed that new part was supposed to be included and I know when Tony Quinn bought the circuit early last year his mantra was to make the circuit as it was originally intended," Richards says.

"I think a lot of the work had been done years before in readiness for extending it.
"On the old track - for a little circuit there is a hell of a lot of character to it with the rise and fall and the undulation it has.

"It will be interesting to see how much the new part has changed it."

Richards says Hampton Downs is quite a technical track that will test the drivers and the state-of-the-art cars out.

"There are a lot of things that link each corner together and if you get one little part of the complex wrong you can affect the next part of the circuit.

"It is hard to say how the new part will impact that.

"With the two right-handers and the left-handers it will certainly add some character."

Richards always looked forward to the New Zealand round of the V8 Supercars championship where he spent 13 years competing as a championship regular. The trip across the Tasman felt like a homecoming as he still has roots here.

"I do have a few friends and family in the greater Auckland area but also the North Island so it will be nice to have them out looking at what we do."

Richards will be partnered by experienced amateur Max Twigg in the BMW M6, which is sponsored by Kiwi firm Laser Electrical for the two New Zealand rounds - Hampton Downs this weekend and then the Highlands 101 in a fortnight, which is the final round of the championship.

"Max has probably been driving now for about 12 years in Australian motor racing. He has a successful business during the week and on race weekends he likes to involve himself in some motor racing.

"It is essentially a pro-am format which makes it such a unique category with the lesser experienced guys learning from the experienced ones.

"Max has got a lot of success in the Porsche Carrera Cup championship over the years being a champion in the amateur level of that series as well as lots of experience with the Bathurst 12 Hour races.

"He brings a lot to the table as a very successful amateur driver."