Richard Green: I feel the need for speed

Richard Green is torn between his two great loves. His golfing hero is Greg Norman. And his car racing hero is the late, great Ayrton Senna.

For the new Portugal Masters champion, Richard Green the need for speed is just as thirsty as a continual need for further success in the ancient club-and-ball game.

Richard Green: I feel the need for speed Richard Green: I feel the need for speed

The Melbourne-born left-hander recently became the first Australian to win the coveted event at Villamoura on the Algarve.

Initially Green thought he had “blown it” when he bogeyed his 72nd hole on the Victoria Course. Yet he eventually won by two strokes to be handed his third European Tour winning trophy after earlier play-off successes in the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic and 2007 BA-CA Golf Open in Austria.

When Green ended his round there were still 18 players ahead of him and all were still on the course with a shot at victory.

But then for more than an hour after being presented with his prize, the 39-year old was getting about as though he was suffering from whiplash,

Green makes no secret he’s a race car fan.

The European Tour media guide lists his major off-course interest as ‘car racing’.

You also only have to look at the sponsor’s name on the white cap Green wore during his win in Portugal.

There’s a rumour the Victoria Police were delighted when Green headed off to compete in Europe as it freed the Melbourne streets of this car racing nut.

But then competing in Europe has only served to whet Green’s appetite for racing.

When the Tour used to go Jerez for the season-ending Volvo Masters, Green was thrilled to find himself playing a golf course laid-out right beside the Jerez F1 and 500cc Grand Prix motor cycle circuit.

Also there’s been the occasion when the KLM Open has been staged on the coast at Zandvoort, Green would drop into the former F1 circuit, also close to the course, to check out who was practicing.

Green would be among the first on a list when the invite came through from BMW to test drive one of their vehicles at the BMW facility in Munich, and the location each year for the BMW International Open.

Earlier this year, Green hung around for a few days after the Abu Dhabi Championship to catch-up with some newfound friends.

Most of them were virtually household names in Australia – at least as far as motor racing fans are concerned. I’m talking about Mark Winterbottom, Will Davison, Jamie Wincup and Craig Lowndes – who were in the UAE ahead of the inaugural round of the V8 Supercars in Abu Dhabi.

“They’re great guys and the best at what they do, and it was great to rub shoulders with them, and I was so surprised at how much they knew about my golfing exploits,” said Green.

“That really flattered me.”

And Back in Britain, and between Tour events, Green and Marcus Fraser, along with Wade Ormsby, would be dicing with each other on a go-kart racing circuit.

Away from the course, Green’s always on the ‘net’ checking out the V8 Supercar Series scores and results.

Green’s interest in car racing was fuelled when his father took him to speedway meeting.

That excitement is still very much there today when Green talks about his favourite ‘other’ sport.

“I’ve always loved cars and had an interest in car racing but it wasn’t until V8 Supercar racing took off in Australia towards the end of the 80s and early 90s that I was really hooked,” he said.

In an interview earlier this year on www.pga.org.au Green said his passion went into fast lap mode when got word Larry Perkins’ former Bathurst winning-Commodore was up for sale.

That was in 2001 and it’s a year he easily remembers as his daughter, Tara was also born that year.

Green wasted little time getting on the phone to a contact in Sydney, and without even seeing the car he bought it.

“I then ended-up meeting Larry and I then had a bit to do with him and his son, Jack,” said Green.

“They were a great in helping me maintain the car.

“But then I sold the car to a collector in early 2006 after having it restored to its Bathurst-winning condition when Larry won the race in 1995.

“So the car had quite a bit of history – and a good history at that.

“But I made some good money on it, and it was through the sale of Larry’s car that I was able to buy a Porsche and that’s got me to where I am now.”

Yet if there was one person helpful in Green getting to the grid it was Jason Richards, the New Zealand born BOC Team driver who’s had three V8 Supercar second place results including a runner-up finish at Bathurst.

Green and Ormsby were at a function when they got chatting with Richards.

“From that meeting with Jason our friendship has just taken off as he has always been keen on golf,” said Green.

“Then one day I got a call from him out of the blue about catching-up for a game of golf, and next thing I saw him at Wade’s wedding in Adelaide.

“Since then we’ve spent a lot more time together playing golf and doing some racing stuff together, and generally just hanging out.”

Green first received his racing stripes from some of the best in Australian motor sport.

“I learnt to drive from Cameron McConville and Craig Lowndes, who in their younger days were instructors,” said Green.

“The influence to actually go and race was always just out of my interest, so I just decided I was going to do it.”

Green made his race car debut in 2006, two years after taking the chequered flag to win the Australian Masters.

“My first race was at Winton and I raced this car that I got off David Reynolds, who raced in the V8 Supercar series last year, and he’d raced the car I had for two years before that in the Carrera Cup Series,” said Green.

“It just felt awesome and compared to the old V8 Supercar I had, that car was a proper sports car.

“It was just a ripper of a car to drive and it handled really well.”

Green got a lot more serious when he bought himself the 996 GT3 Porsche Carerra and moved further up the fast lane when he learnt his car would be eligible for the 2009 Australian Grand Prix GT Series race, on the card as a support race for the Australian F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park.

“I was told if I paid the entry fee, I was [eligible], and that kind of surprised me at how easy it was,” he said.

“I had to go and get the correct racing licence in Australia and deal with a lot of other administrative stuff, so probably that was the most time-consuming part of it but after that it was just enter and go!”

His Austral Racing team car is numbered 63 but he would have liked 62.

“A 62 is my lowest score in golf, and I wanted 62 but some other clown has 62, so I had to settle for the 63,” he grinned.

And guess where he shot 62? A course record during the 2006 KLM Open at Zandvoort.

The team is managed by Paul Walker with major sponsor, Valvoline and other sponsors including Toll and Orix – the same sponsors he has on the golf course.

Green again entered the car in this year’s Albert Park race and he showed he’s just as good on the race circuit as he’s comfortable on the golf course by finishing fourth, again in the race staged as a prelude to the Australian F1 Grand Prix.

Green lapped the four kilometre circuit in an average of two minutes and 10 seconds, while nudging speeds of 225kph.

“I was happy with that result but then if the race had finished under green flag conditions, instead of the yellow flag, I would have been on the podium, and that would have been some achievement,” he said.

“There’s nothing like it and when I’m out there.

“When I actually get the belt on and put my helmet on, and I have the steering wheel in my hand, I am very calm and the car actually becomes part of you so I feel different when I’m out there in the car.

“But to be really competitive I would have to do the whole series, which is about six or seven races.

“Once April comes around, the golf takes over and it’s back in the deep end of the European Tour for me.”

That’s a time of year when Green’s wife Anita is also a lot happier.

Green was quizzed in his PGA interview about the difference and/or similarities in car racing and being a pro golfer:

“From a driver’s point of view you have to believe in your ability and that’s the same for a golfer, as you have to believe you can hit the golf ball from A to B and that you can get it in the hole and believe you are good enough you can play at the elite level,” he said.

“And it’s kind of the same thing when you’re driving.

“You have to believe you can stop the car and turn it and drive it around a corner at high speed and hang onto it and control it and do all those sorts of things at high speed.

“You have to have that sort of belief in yourself and if you haven’t you might as well not do either sport.

“You have to totally have confidence in your ability to perform on the golf course too, so that sort of similarity I see that’s really close.

“But in regards to concentration, in golf you have a period of time to relax between shots and you can look and think and it’s pretty casual.

“Obviously then when you are over a golf shot you try to do the best you can and you’re 100 per cent focused, whereas in the motor-racing game you have to be 100 per cent focused from the time you get in the car to the time you get out of it.

“You can’t allow anything to distract you.

“In golf if something distracts you, you can stop and pull back from a shot or pause. If something distracts you in racing or there is something on your mind and you can’t concentrate properly you shouldn’t do it.”

Now Green is cashed-up after winning the Portugal Masters a newer race car is on the shopping list.

“I’ve had it on my mind to upgrade to the 997, so that’s going to be the plan now,” he said.

“It’s going cost about $150,000 but car racing is my passion – apart from golf, of course.”