V8 Supercars driver Jason Richards made a surprise return to the series’ paddock today as the championship’s single day of pre-season testing occurred at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Raceway, taking time out from rounds of chemotherapy treatment for a rare stomach cancer.
And no one was happier to see him back than the very man himself, who was also given the opportunity to sample some laps in the Team BOC Holden he hopes to co-pilot during the endurance races later this year as part of a projected full-time return to the sport.
“It’s been well worth the exercise to come down. I guess I did it for selfish reasons at first to come and drive my race car, have some fun and put a smile on my face,” he told Fox Sports.
“But the other thing is that it’s been great to meet all the fans who’ve supported me and for them to see me here, still looking healthy and catching up with my mates in pit lane.”
The New Zealander was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer later last year, and he withdrew from further competition in the championship to have the growth surgically excised.
“The drama with my cancer is it’s very rare, and so there isn’t much information and no real knowledge base or proven treatments,” he added.
“There are a few trials on the go at the moment and we’re educating ourselves through worldwide resource centres, we’re putting up a good fight to this.”
Only now has he been fit enough to start chemotherapy, and it was all the more incredible that his visit to the paddock occurred just two days after his first round of treatment, when most sufferers would feel at their worst.
“The V8 Supercar community has supported me so well through this time, and (my wife) Charlotte and I and my family. I guess I’ve been part of the furniture for a long time so it’s been a shock to a lot of people,” he continued.
“I finished my first cycle of chemo two days ago and stood up really well to it. I’m on a really aggressive regime because it’s a very aggressive cancer, so I thought I’d have a really bleak outlook just because of that, but to be able to jump back into a race car and run some relatively competitive laps [means] I’m pretty happy.”
[Original image via V8 Supercars Australia]