Ed Higginson joins Steve Richards Motorsport and the team DAF XF105
I’ve driven between Melbourne and Sydney many times in lots of different trucks, but driving two up with Steve Richards will definitely be my most memorable. The ride in his brand-new DAF XF105.510 with the Super Space cab, hooked up to his B-double transporter, made it even more special.
Many of you will undoubtedly know of Steve Richards and his success over 21 years in motorsport. In 1996, Steve started his career in the V8 Supercars Championship, driving for both the factory Holden and Ford supported teams.
Now Steve competes in the Australian GT Championship series as a full-time driver with his own team, BMW Team SRM, racing the factory-supported BMW M6 GT3 and M4 GT4. He also partners with Craig Lowndes in the V8 Supercars Endurance events for Triple 8 Race Engineering.
Richards, the son of seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Jim Richards, is himself a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner. What many fans may not know of Steve is that he is also an owner/driver, taking the wheel of his team’s B-double race transporter between events all over Australia.
I joined him on a recent trip to Sydney from his base in the Yarra Valley, in his new DAF with just 5000 km on the clock, for a BMW drive day experience that he hosts for his sponsors throughout the year.
Steve started driving trucks after forming the race team with his wife of 20 years, Ange. Steve explains, “After driving in the Supercar Championship, an opportunity came up with some of my previous sponsors. And we met Laser Plumbing and Electrical. So we started SRM Steve Richards Motorsport and went Porsche Carrera Cup racing for the eight-round championship plus the extra three rounds in the Supercars. That was the small beginning, which has grown over the past seven years into a big business today with some stable partners. We always try to partner with quality brands as we see ourselves as a quality brand too”.
The business started with just the single race transporter, built by Titan Trailers in 2012, which is now the B-double’s rear trailer. As the business grew, Steve purchased a new lead trailer in 2017 from Grove. This has enabled Steve to also transport some of the other team’s equipment around events, adding to the business’s workload.
Moving race cars and their equipment is a very specialised job, so Steve likes to pilot the truck himself, or with a couple of his trusted contract drivers on the longer runs.
“Starting out as a small business, we had a tight budget, so I had to drive the truck myself. But I enjoy the time away from the office, driving up the highway and keeping my eye on the equipment. We could only buy our own trailers by transporting other team’s cars, so I also took on the responsibility of driving myself to ensure everything was looked after and tied down well,” Steve adds.
Both Steve and his wife Ange comment that spending time in the truck is a great way to relax together without the interruptions of emails or phones. With a fully-sprung passenger seat and loads of storage, the DAF Super Space cab is a great two-up truck. It’s also extremely quiet to ride in, so chatting between each other is easy on the highway.
“I’m often driving with my wife or one of my kids onboard during school holidays. We are a family business so we all get involved. From our perspective, we need the truck to be comfortable with loads of safety features, so it’s been a great partnership with DAF,” Steve added.
Prior to the DAF, Steve also had a CAT CT630, a Volvo FH540 and a Freightliner Argosy. “The DAF is great to drive, is comfortable and quiet, it’s unsurpassed compared with anything else I’ve driven,” he said.
Sponsorship has always been an integral part of motorsport, but like many aspects of the modern era, things have changed substantially over the last 15 to 20 years.
“Back when you had tobacco sponsorship, they just wanted a sign on the car. Now it’s much more than that. We build a program around our assets and brand. Customers want to use the sponsorship to engage with their client and staff, plus use you as an ambassador for a product to get the full experience and value for their investment,” said Steve.
Laser Plumbing and Electrical has been Steve’s foundation sponsor since forming the business. Today, the team also partners with BMW Australia, BP Ultimate, DAF, Snap-On and Mosley Mining.
Driving Steve’s team truck had an added bonus when I got the opportunity to take the BMW M6 GT3 ride experience for myself. As Steve only offers hot laps to their sponsors or through charity events, it’s not an experience you can buy. This is where I got to experience Steve’s true driving skills, taking the incredible BMW around Eastern Creek at near race speeds. It was a truly once in a lifetime ride, and, from the look on the faces of the other 50 corporate guests jumping out of the car, I’m sure they would all agree.
Some may think driving the racing team’s transporters around is a glamorous driving job, and it certainly gets you behind the wheel of some great looking rigs, but there is much more to it than simply taking the cars to the race weekends.
If you hate having to pack and unpack your truck for a shift away, then consider that race crews spend around two to four hours at each event unpacking the trucks, setting up the pit garages, then packing it all away again, again and again, week in week out, for race meetings plus all the events in between.
In terms of the DAF XF105.510, it is certainly a nice drive, but it really shines due to its size and more storage than you can dream to fill. With two decent bunk beds with ample space above each, both with driver restraints for sleeping on the go, and with a passenger seat as comfy as the driver’s, it’s the perfect space for two-up driving.
Steve’s truck has the PACCAR MX13, six-cylinder 12.9-litre engine with turbo intercooler, giving maximum power of 510 hp (375 kW) at 1500-1900 rpm and peak torque of 1850 lb-ft (2500 Nm) at 1000-1410 rpm. Matched with the ZF-AS Tronic, 16-speed, overdrive, automated gearbox, it performs well.
In the modern era where 540-650 hp is the norm on B-double and road train work, 510 hp sounds a little short, but it never felt so on the highway. We were running around 55 tonnes, which undoubtedly helped, but if it wore a 540 badge you probably wouldn’t notice.
On the climb over the hill at Glenrowan in Victoria, which is one of my comparison spots, the DAF crested the top at 73 km/h, which is more than respectable north bound. On the way down the hill towards the BP, the engine and exhaust brake, with 320 kW of retardation power at 2100 rpm, was able to hold its speed as we then slowed to enter the service area for our first stop.
After a quick fill-up of fuel, with BP Ultimate Diesel of course, and a decent coffee to help with the early morning Sunday start, we set off again onwards to Sydney.
Over the drive from the Yarra Valley in Victoria to Eastern Creek raceway in NSW, and return, there were many features in the DAF that impressed. In terms of safety, the DAF gets EBS, MX Engine Brake and exhaust brake, hill start aid (with AS-Tronic only), vehicle stability control (VSC), lane departure warning system, SRS airbag, anti-slip control (ASR), drag torque control, and adaptive cruise control (ACC) with forward collision warning (FCW).
The DAF also gets the tick for its superb ride along the rough country roads. Storage options, underbunk slide-out fridge, comfortable beds and electric sunroof are all excellent, so, with the Paccar support network, the DAF is a great option for many.
There are just a couple of areas were the DAF falls short, though. The XF cab has been around since 1997, so it doesn’t have the sharp lines of the competitors, and climbing into the cab isn’t the easiest, but the old radio and computer set up really lets it down. After driving DAFs most common rivals, it’s like going from your iPhone X to an old Nokia 3310.
Europe has welcomed the new DAF XF106.510 to the market, with updated cab, modernised dash, decent touchscreen radio and entertainment system, plus the Euro 6 engine with Eco mode.
Fingers crossed Australia will see the new truck soon, so DAF can go head to head with others in the market. A 600 hp engine would be nice too.