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July 13,2002

Age nothing but a number to Richardson
Kelowna resident ripping up pro series despite late start
The Okanagan Saturday

KELOWNA - When does age become a factor in the things you do?

In sports, it seems the younger, the better when it comes to getting started.

But a Kelowna resident is bucking the trend when it comes to racing fast cars really, really fast.

Mike Richardson is 34 years old, but admits to being a teenager at heart, and in his second season of being a racecar driver of any sort, is jumping right into the pro ranks.

The Kelowna mechanical-contractor turned open-wheeled racer has so far this year toured Sebring, Lime Rock, Laguna Seca, Portland and most recently, Toronto as a driver on the Barber Dodge Pro Series --- a support event for the CART series.

"I have a real passion for this racing," said Richardson before heading off to Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday to compete at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Richardson is not your ordinary rookie in open wheel racing. First off, he didn't step into a racecar --- of any sort --- until he passed his 30th birthday.
" I raced motorcycles back in Saskatchewan when I was younger," said Richardson, as if that was deemed enough of a background to climb into an open-wheeled car.

Richardson had not even been trackside at open-wheel event until he attended the Molson Indy Vancouver in 1998.

"I said 'This is so neat,'" he said. "I just wanted to try this open wheel racing, so I went to school."

Richardson attended the Bridgestone Racing School in 1999 at Mosport near Toronto.

A few months later, he was racing the Bridgestone 2000 series that visits various Eastern Canada tracks.

He took 2001 off to attend to some personal matters, but during the past winter travel numerous times to Sebring, Fla., to practice at the famed Skip Barber School of racing.

He turned enough heads to be invited to race on the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

"They gave me a chance to do some testing with them, and I passed the test," said Richardson.

However, passing the test may have been the easy part for an aspiring racer. He then had to find sponsors and money to cover expenses and put up a contingency fund in case of a dreaded crash --- your fault or not.

"The biggest expenses are the crashes, especially the ones that aren't your fault," said Richardson, who had first had experience of that last weekend at the Molson Indy Toronto.

Richardson put in the 13th fastest time in the first qualifying session, but was forced to the back of the 21-car field when he clipped the first turn wall during the second qualifying period.

"it was a moment of me not being on top of my game," Richardson said of Sunday's morning qualifying mishap.

Then his race didn't last past the fifth lap, when he blew an engine --- an infrequent occurrence for these equally matched cars, but Sunday was his unlucky day.

All the competitors in the series --- and there are 38 registered drivers this year --- are basically put into the same equipment; Reynard Dodge 98E race cars, with a carbon fibre composite chassis, an all aluminum 3.5-litre V-6 Dodge engine, Hewland gearbox and Michelin Pilot SX racing slicks.