Two-time Bathurst 1000 winner John Bowe has opened up to Speedcafe.com about the passing of Jason Richards – his neighbour, rival and friend.
Richards passed away on Thursday night after a year-long fight with cancer. He was 35-years-old.
The Richards family live on the same street as Bowe in Melbourne's Bayside area. While Richards and Bowe spent the first years of their relationship as rivals in the V8 Supercars arena, they quickly developed a strong friendship that was solidified when the pair became neighbours.
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Bowe says that he and other close friends of Richards were praying for a miracle cure to his rare and aggressive form of cancer – adrenal cortical carcinoma.
While the cure never came, Bowe says his mate fought until the very end.
“I knew the degree of his illness, as his inner-circle did, and we all hung on to this hope of a miracle drug,” Bowe told Speedcafe.com.
“He tried everything. He researched around the world, he went to America. He was about to start a new drug that was developed in Sydney. It was just going through ethics committee.
“Every time something else came up, we all had the hope that it was going to be the one to stem his bloody terrible illness. He just fought on and on.”
When Richards was diagnosed with the disease in November 2010, it became clear very quickly that the Kiwi was not going to let it stop him enjoying his life.
Despite the debilitating nature of the cancer, he continued to play an active role with both of his families – at home and at the race track.
Richards competed in two V8 Supercars races earlier this year while on a break from chemo, plus a number of selected races in other classes.
Every time he sat in a race car, he was competitive, remarkably winning on debut in the Fujitsu V8 Supercars Series at the Clipsal 500, before finishing second in Race 2 of the Albert Park 400 main series event a week later.
One of Richards' favourite sayings during his illness was that competing in a motor race was his own personal treatment.
When his body became too weak to race, he turned to his other sporting love – golf.
Just one day before Richards' untimely passing, he played in the Australian Masters Pro/Am tournament with golfer and friend Richard Green as well as AFL Geelong Cats player Tom Hawkins and Braith Anasta of the NRL's Sydney Roosters.
Bowe says that his golf gave him a competitive outlet in his final days.
“On Tuesday, he spent the day practicing his golf, and then on Wednesday, he played with Richard Green, a good mate of his, in the Pro/Am Masters,” said Bowe.
“That was one of his goals. He loved golf and he got out there and did it.
“At the end of the day, he was absolutely stuffed, but I could tell that it was mentally helping him.”
It will take some time for the Australian and international motorsport communities to come to terms with Richards' passing. Even for Bowe, who knew the full extent of JR's fading health, his mate's passing is hard to fathom.
“I'm devastated, but I'm not as devastated as his immediate family,” said Bowe.
“He's an amazing bloke. I spent a lot of time with him. I saw a resilience, a determination and a passion that is very rare. I feel so much for his little kids, and for him, that he's not going to see them grow and do all the things that a father should.
“There's no words that do the situation justice. I'm still in shock. It's just very tragic and very sad.
“I have awesome memories of our time together, as most do, because he was a hard bloke not to love. He was one very amazing individual.”
CLICK HERE for yesterday's news story on the passing of Jason Richard
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com's summary of Jason Richards' racing career
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com's pictorial tribute to Jason Richards
CLICK HERE for comments from V8 Supercars chairman Tony Cochrane