Holden legend Larry Perkins chats with co-driver Russell Ingall at Bathurst in 2001
Photo: Getty Images
Larry Perkins is in negotiations with Kelly Racing to bring his involvement in the V8 Supercar category to an end at the end of this season.
At present, Kelly Racing still uses two Perkins Engineering Racing Entitlement Contracts (RECs) for two of its cars, but the group is keen to buy Perkins out a year early so they can rebrand themselves as Nissan Motorsport next year.
While the six-time Bathurst winner has ceased to have a hands-on role in the category ever since Kelly Racing took over the running of the RECs prior to the 2009 season, a V8 season without the Perkins name involved is still a watershed moment for the sport.
Perkins has motorsport in his blood. His father, Eddie Perkins, won the 1955 RedeX Round Australia Trial, so it was little wonder Larry developed a love for cars at a young age.
His rise through the open wheeler ranks was rapid. He won the Australian Formula Vee Championship in 1970, before progressing to Formula Ford and winning that championship in 1971 in an Elfin. Racing fans had still really not paid the kid from Cowangie too much notice, but he made it onto the radar when he won the Australian Formula Two Championship in 1972. Perkins went to Brands Hatch to compete in the Formula Ford World Championship where he came fifth in an Elfin 620, leading to him being described as Sir Jack Brabham's successor.
After a promising showing in his first European outing, Perkins stayed on and competed in the European Formula Three Championship on a shoestring budget, using a converted furniture truck as a race transporter. Making every dollar stretch as far as possible underpinned Perkins' engineering philosophy right throughout his racing career. One of his most memorable stories explains why he ended up with the number 11 on his Australian racecars. The choice proved the simplest and easiest number to put on the side of the car (except for the No.1 plate) - just two strips of race tape down the door and you were ready to race.
Perkins got his first taste of Formula One in 1974, driving a Chris Amon-designed F5000 chassis in the German Grand Prix; unfortunately the team and the car were a disaster and the Australian returned to F3 the following year, where he went on to win the championship.
That result earned him four separate stints in Formula One in the following two years but, aside from an eighth-placed finish in the Belgian Grand Prix for Ensign in 1976, results were few and far between, so he returned to Australia.
Perkins then turned his talent to all manner of events, winning the 1979 Australian Rallycross Championship in a Volkswagen Beetle and also engineering tTe Quiet Achiever solar car with his brother Garry.
His talents as a race engineer attracted the attention of the great Peter Brock in the early 1980s. In 1982, Brock recruited Perkins to join the works Holden Dealer Team to engineer the new Holden Commodore VHs. As well as overseeing the development of the cars, Perkins joined Brock as co-driver for the endurance races, taking a hat-trick of Bathurst wins between 1982 and 1984. In 1984 Brock and Perkins also won the Sandown 500.
After their successful partnership, Brock and Perkins parted ways in 1985, and then the unthinkable happened. Perkins raced a Ford Mustang around Mount Panorama alongside Dick Johnson and the pair finished seventh, which is probably fortunate because the man who came to be one of Holden's biggest heroes on the mountain can conveniently skip past this moment in history.
Only Brock and Jim Richards have more wins around Mount Panorama than Perkins, which goes some way to describing the man's aura at the circuit. But perhaps the most impressive of Perkins' wins was alongside Russell Ingall in 1995, when the pair came from last to first to claim victory.
This was the first time the Bathurst 1000 was an all V8 affair, and Perkins made sure it was one to remember. As the race started, Perkins clashed with Craig Lowndes's HRT Commodore and came limping back to the pits with a puncture. He rejoined the race in 30th position, with the leaders only 15 seconds off putting him a lap down and ending any hopes he may have had. What followed was some of the most inspired driving ever seen on the circuit, as Ingall and Perkins methodically worked their way through the field to be fifth with 30 laps to go.
There was some attrition which helped the Holden duo, including engine dramas for both HRT cars, but in the last nine laps, Perkins picked off Wayne Gardner, Alan Jones and then Brad Jones to sit second behind Glenn Seton with 21 laps to go. Seton's engine failed in the dying stages of the race and Perkins went on to beat Alan Jones by nearly six seconds.
It was perhaps the greatest race of an extraordinary career.
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