Larry Perkins

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Last updated: 19-December-2001


Biography

Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1
Background

Elder statesman of touring car and V8 racing in Australia has done it all

In recent years, the Australian motor racing fraternity has seen the retirement of some of its icons and legends. First Peter Brock hung up his helmet at the end of 1997, followed by his arch-rival Dick Johnson in 1999. As we write this, in late 2001, Australia anticipates the decision of another of its favourite sons, Larry Perkins from Murrayville in Victoria, simply 'LP' or 'The Cowangie Kid' to many, to retire from full time competition for 2002.

More recent fans will only know of Perkins as the ace V8 touring car exponent, the ardent Holden man and engineer extraordinaire. Those with longer memories, though, will recall that this bespectacled, straight-talking country Aussie has just about done it all on the motorsport stage, starting his career in open wheelers before heading to Europe and making it all the way to F1, attracting the attention of Bernie Ecclestone no less, before returning to Australia to assume god-like status - among Holden fans, at least!

1969-71

Gets bored of boring and takes to Formula Vee with much success

Larry Clifton Perkins was born into motorsport, his father dominating Round-Australia trials in the 1950s driving Volkswagens. Brought up in the small country town of Cowangie, he went to Tutye state school in Murrayville until year 5, before going to consolidated school until year 10, after which he dropped out. By the late 1960s, though, in his own words, he had "got sick of water boring and bought a Formula Vee".

Well, maybe it wasn't quite as simple as that. Given a chance by four-times Australian Drivers Champion Bib Stillwell to drive in his team, Perkins made his race debut at Mallala in South Australia in 1969. He raced full-time in Formula Vee in 1970, winning the Australian championship, before taking victory in the 1971 Australian Formula Ford 1600 championship in an Elfin, including a win at Oran Park where he took fastest lap of the race.


Larry was soon an up and coming star on the Australian single-seater scene, winning the Australian 1971 Formula Ford 1600 Championship.
Larry was soon an up and coming star on the Australian single-seater scene, winning the Australian 1971 Formula Ford 1600 Championship.

1972-73

Blitzes Aussie F2, heads to Europe where it's F3 on a shoestring

When he cleaned up the Australian F2 championship the following year in 1972, Australian race fans were really sitting up and taking notice. He came 5th that year in the Formula Ford World Championship (now the Formula Ford Festival) at Brands Hatch in an Elfin 620, and as the best driver from Down Under, Racing Car News magazine called him "Australia's fastest rising racing star". In the wake of Sir Jack Brabham's retirement from top-line racing, perhaps Australia had found a successor.

To fulfil his talent, in 1973 he did the inevitable and went to Europe to race in F3 all over the continent. But, as with drivers before and after him who ventured from Australia, he did so on a shoestring budget, so much so that he used a converted furniture truck as a race transporter under the 'Team Cowangie' banner. Despite the fact that he had to learn a whole bunch of new tracks, and despite the fact that he was always on the move, going wherever there was a race, he acquitted himself well.

1973-74

Starts winning to make his name, taken under the wing of Amon for F5000

At first he was stung by the professionalism and closeness of it all; at Brands Hatch he was only 1.3 seconds off pole but down in 56th spot! But he came to grips with it, and soon won a race in Sweden. He won a two-heat race in France, all the more incredible because he had been a lap down after problems in the first heat, only to overcome that deficit in the rain in the second! He also led at Oulton Park by 6 seconds when his engine failed, and at Monaco he had been fastest in one of the practice sessions.

For 1974, it seemed as though he was finally going places. He had been taken aboard by Kiwi F1 star Chris Amon to drive his self-designed F5000 chassis, and test the new Amon F1 car, with a view to perhaps becoming an F1 driver in 1975 and beyond. With his "down-to-earth philosophy and at least one four letter word in each mouthful" (as Racing Car News put it), Larry was talking up his hopes.


A shoestring budget didn't stop Perkins from competing in, and winning, the 1975 Formula 3 Championship, outting him in contention for an F1 drive.
A shoestring budget didn't stop Perkins from competing in, and winning, the 1975 Formula 3 Championship, outting him in contention for an F1 drive.

1974

Doesn't think AJ will go the distance, happy to be in Amon's F5000 hands

He even made the bold assertion:
"I'm really happy with the way things have turned out so far, especially when compared with some of the other Aussies over here. For instance ... Alan Jones is still in F3 after about five years. He's done all right this year, but I can't see that he will go much further."
Things didn't quite turn out the way he planned, though, not least of which was the fact that Alan Jones became 1980 World Champion, whereas Perkins ended up an F1 reject!

Any optimism in the Amon project was grossly misplaced. The F1 car turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, and the F5000 machine was not much better, unable to be developed on a minute budget. In the event, Perkins actually made his F1 debut later on that very year in the Amon in Germany (see below), but it meant no more than the fact that Perkins had participated in the team's sad disintegration.

1975

Stingy with the budget, but not with the talent - as Larry wins the European F3 title

Basically he had to start all over again in 1975. He approached ex-Brabham genius engineer Ron Tauranac with the idea of designing a new F3 prototype, and the Ralt RT1 was the result, using a Ford engine tuned by Novamotor. Larry was joined in Europe by his brother Terry, and the pair raced the RT1s in the European F3 championship. They were still doing things on a tight budget, though, at times forced to smuggle crew members in trucks to avoid customs at border-crossings!

On another occasions, they left their cars in Denmark because there was a race there in the near future, and proceeded to hitch-hike all the way back to London without spending a single cent! These shenanigans didn't seem to affect Perkins' performance, though. Once again, Tauranac had had the Midas touch, and after three wins at Croix-en-Ternois, Djurslandring and Monza (the last being one of his best-ever wins, by his own admission), he walked off with the European F3 title with his 18 point total.

Formula One
1974
Amon

Performs well on debut in Germany, but it's only a one-off

As we said, Perkins had made his F1 debut in 1974, earlier than expected. After dismal showings in Spain and Monaco in the hands of Amon himself, it was patently clear that the AF101 chassis using the Cosworth V8 engine was simply no good. At the German GP at the daunting Nurburgring, Amon fell ill in practice and Perkins was rushed in to take his place at the very last moment. In such circumstances, on such a phenomenal track, Larry was up against it.

Amazingly, he went faster than what Amon had done, but a practice crash limited his running time. Perkins was only 30th fastest out of the 32 entrants, and didn't make the grid. Amon returned in time for the Italian GP at Monza, but after failing to qualify there as well, the Amon project was doomed. That could have spelled the end of Perkins' hopes, but after his stunning efforts back in F3 in 1975, he was suddenly grabbing F1 team bosses' attention come 1976.


A tough ask - Perkins was forced to make his F1 debut at the great Nurburgring of all places, and in a sub-standard car.
A tough ask - Perkins was forced to make his F1 debut at the great Nurburgring of all places, and in a sub-standard car.

1976
Boro

Old Ensign team picks up Larry, who steadily impoves

At the end of 1975, Perkins had admitted that where he went in 1976 depended on sponsorship. But the Ensign F1 team, now called Boro Ensign, had just secured a sponsorship deal with HB Bewaking Alarm Systems, which gave them some financial security, and allowed them to sign Perkins for a number of races. In the N175 with a Cosworth V8 engine, Perkins acquitted himself quite well, qualifying 24th and 20th in Spain and Belgium, finishing 13th and a fine 8th respectively.

Although he failed to qualify at Monaco, in his three remaining races with Ensign he steadily improved. He started 22nd in Sweden only for his engine to fail, and spun off at Zandvoort for the Dutch GP having started 19th. He then qualified a magnificent 13th in the unfashionable car at Monza, but once again engine problems prevented him from finishing. But it was also at the Italian GP that Argentine driver Carlos Reutemann had left the Brabham team to join Ferrari.

1976
Brabham

Can't make himself a standout, pulls out of Fiji like Lauda and others

This created a vacancy which, after Monza, team boss Bernie Ecclestone was desperate to fill. He turned to Perkins, and the Aussie had his best chance yet, even if the car bearing the name of his compatriot was not the most competitive that year. And so it was that he strapped himself into the BT45 with the Alfa Romeo flat 12 engine at the Canadian GP at Mosport. Unfortunately, he didn't shine. Qualifying 19th, he spun during the race but recovered to finish 2 laps down in 17th place.

It didn't get any better in the last two races of the 1976 season. He started 13th at Watkins Glen, but retired with front suspension failure, and at Fuji for the Japanese GP, after qualifying 17th, he pulled out of the race because of the atrocious weather conditions. Everyone remembers the fact that Niki Lauda had similarly withdrawn, thereby throwing away his chance of winning the World Championship, but few recall the fact that Perkins was amongst a brace of other drivers who had done the same.


Niki Lauda was not the only one to pull out of the 1976 Japanese Gp at Fuji - Perkins also came in, retiring his Brabham.
Niki Lauda was not the only one to pull out of the 1976 Japanese Gp at Fuji - Perkins also came in, retiring his Brabham.

1977
BRM

A couple of sad showings for a team a shadow of its former self

To be frank, Larry had squandered his chance with Brabham (that's how it appeared, at least), as for 1977 Ecclestone replaced him with John Watson. Even when his other driver, Brazilian Carlos Pace, died early in 1977 in an aeroplane crash, Ecclestone opted for Hans-Joachim Stuck to replace the South American. And so Perkins was left to join the Rotary Watches Stanley BRM team, now a shadow of its former greatness. So much a shadow, in fact, that its P207 chassis for 1977 is considered one of the worst of all time.

Perkins qualified it last in Brazil, but retired when the engine lost water. So embarrassed was the team with the new car's showing that for the second round of the championship in South Africa, they installed their V12 engine in the back of a hybrid P201B/204 chassis based on the previous year's car. Perkins started 22nd out of 23, but not long into the race his engine dropped two cylinders, and with his now-V10 propelling him at snail's pace, he finished 15th but five laps down.

1977
Surtees

Final chance comes but he qualifies in only one of four attempts

This was more than enough as far as he was concerned, and he walked out on the dying team. But another door opened for him four races later at Surtees, where he got the chance to drive the TS19 chassis with a Cosworth V8 engine at Zolder, Anderstorp and Dijon for the Belgian, Swedish and French Grands Prix, replacing Hans Binder. Sadly, he couldn't make the most of this opportunity either. He finished 12th in Belgium from 23rd on the grid, three laps down, but he couldn't qualify in the other two races.

With that, Perkins was out of an F1 drive, himself ousted by fellow Aussie Vern Schuppan. Although he was proud of the fact that he had made it to F1 and had managed to get several drives "without paying anyone", and justifiably so, he would have been disappointed by his distinct lack of results. Ironically, back in that interview in 1974 he had dismissed Alan Jones as a spent force; in 1977, as Perkins was sliding into European oblivion, AJ actually won his first victory in a Shadow in Austria.


The Stanley BRM team strapped a V12 onto Perkins' car at Kyalami, but it didn't help matters and Larry bailed on the team after that race.
The Stanley BRM team strapped a V12 onto Perkins' car at Kyalami, but it didn't help matters and Larry bailed on the team after that race.

After F1
1977-79

Makes first attempts at Bathurst, Formula Atlantic and the Le Mans 24hrs

Without any other options, Perkins had to return to Australasia far sooner than he had hoped. Towards the end of 1977, he had made his first start in Australia's great touring car endurance race, the Bathurst 1000 around Mount Panorama, sharing a Holden Torana A9X with Melbourne socialite Peter Janson to 3rd place. For 1978, he went across the Tasman to race in New Zealand Formula Atlantic, where despite his F1 pedigree he was beaten to 2nd place overall by Finnish upstart Keke Rosberg.

In 1978 he had also made his first ever start at that more world famous endurance event, the Le Mans 24hrs, where he drove a Charles Ivey Racing Porsche Carrera 911 with Gordon Spice and John Rulon-Miller, finishing 14th. Then, for 1979, it was back to open-wheeler racing in Australia, Perkins winning the Australian F5000 championship in fine style in an Elfin. Tom Prankerd tells us that he also took time out to compete at the Lady Wigram Allen Trophy event, where he drove a March 77B.

1979-82

Rallycross champion, then joins Brock to engineeer their works Holden

1979 had also seen Larry take out the Australian Rallycross championship, and make his second start at Bathurst, where he again raced with Janson in a Torana A9X, coming 2nd this time behind Peter Brock and Jim Richards. In 1980, Perkins and Janson upgraded to a Holden Commodore VC, but were beaten again by Brock and Richards. The following year, Larry raced on the Mountain for the last time with Janson, whom he had grown to hugely respect, but their Commodore VC was forced out with engine problems.

Throughout this time, what many people had forgotten though was that Perkins was not just a great driver, he was a more than capable engineer. This fact was not lost on Brock himself, who in 1982 recruited Perkins to join the works Holden Dealer Team to engineer their new Holden Commodore VHs. But not only would Larry get to oversee the development of the cars, he would co-drive with Brock at the endurance races as well in a fearsome combination.


Leaving Europe, Larry returned to race at the 1977 Bathurst, partnered with Peter Janson in a Holden Torana A9X.
Leaving Europe, Larry returned to race at the 1977 Bathurst, partnered with Peter Janson in a Holden Torana A9X.

1982-84

Hat-trick of Bathurst victories, first man to cross Australia in a solar car

It worked a charm, as Brock and Perkins won a legendary hat-trick of Bathursts from 1982 to 1984, the first two in Commodore VHs, the third in a Group C Commodore VK. However, in 1983 they had been fortunate, as Brock's famed number 05 machine broke down in the early stages, and both he and Perkins had to switch over to their second team car. 1984 had also seen Brock and Perkins win the other major touring car endurance event in Australia, the Sandown 500, Brock's 9th win and Perkins' 1st in that event.

Perkins had also demonstrated his engineering prowess in other ways. In 1982 he had become the first person to drive a solar-powered car across Australia, when he co-drove a machine built by his brother Gary with adventurer Hans Tholstrupthe. In 1984 he had also dabbled in sports cars, driving a John Fitzpatrick Racing Porsche 956 at the World Sportscar Championship round at Silverstone with Brock, finishing 21st, and retiring at Le Mans with Brock again in a Team Australia Porsche 956.

1985

Surprises all in Wynn's Safari, but not as big a surprise as joining Ford at Bathurst!!

1985 saw Perkins attempt his most daring engineering challenge yet, when he entered the Wynn's Safari (an off-road event) in a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle against factory-backed four-wheel-drives. To the great embarrassment of all the works teams, he was actually running 2nd in the event when his car inevitably broke down, but he had made his point nonetheless.

Otherwise, 1985 was a pretty torrid year for LP. The Holden Dealer Team had begun to disintegrate. Brock had taken it in a new direction which left Perkins out in the cold, and come Bathurst he did something which many thought would never happen. In the highly parochial world of Ford versus Holden Australian touring car racing, Perkins teamed up with Dick Johnson to drive the latter's Green Tuff Ford Mustang. Together they came 7th, but not surprisingly it's a result this ardent Holden man mentions little these days!


1984 saw the Perkins-Brock super-team take its hat-trick of Bathurst victories. No other pairing has ever won back-to-back-to-back at Mount Panorama.
1984 saw the Perkins-Brock super-team take its hat-trick of Bathurst victories. No other pairing has ever won back-to-back-to-back at Mount Panorama.

1986-87

Forms his own team, comes 10th then 5th in Aussie touring car title

But, the fighter that he is, in 1985 he had regrouped and formed his own team, Perkins Engineering. In 1986 he ran a Commodore VK with Enzed hoses sponsorship, and came 10th in the Australian Touring Car Championship, before bringing the underrated David Parsons on board as co-driver for the endurance events. However problems struck at Bathurst, and the pair could only manage a lowly 25th place, in a race marred by the death of fellow Commodore driver Mike Burgmann.

A full season's campaign in the Enzed Commodore VK in 1987 brought Perkins a fine 5th in the ATCC with 115 points, and for the enduros he found a more than capable team-mate in the form of 1967 World Champion Denny Hulme. However their Bathurst attempt came to a miserably early end, when Perkins tangled with the Ford Sierra driven by Neville Crichton on the third lap out of 161. It was little consolation that he and Hulme subsequently won the Pukekohe 500 event in New Zealand.

1988

Joins up with TWR, this leads to a Jaguar drive at Le Mans, taking 4th place

1988 saw the works Holden team reincarnated, thanks to Tom Walkinshaw, who with the help of Perkins Engineering created the Holden Special Vehicles team. Together, Walkinshaw and Perkins developed the big chunky Commodore VL Group A racer, and with it Perkins came 7th in the ATCC with 45 points. But in truth the car still had teething problems by the time the enduros rolled around, and at Bathurst the VL shared by Perkins and Hulme retired after 137 laps with engine failure.

The association with Walkinshaw had its fringe benefits for Larry. It earned him a start in one of the gorgeous Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 LM prototypes at the Le Mans 24hrs, where he was paired with Kevin Cogan and Derek Daly. A fairly reliable run saw their car finish 4th, albeit a whole 9 laps behind their victorious team-mates Jan Lammers, Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries. This single result put Perkins in equal 29th place in the 1988 World Sportscar Championship, with 30 points.


1988 saw Larry part of the TWR Jaguar tilt at the Le Mans 24hrs. Perkins finished a brilliant 4th place, along with co-drivers Kevin Cogan and Derek Daly.
1988 saw Larry part of the TWR Jaguar tilt at the Le Mans 24hrs. Perkins finished a brilliant 4th place, along with co-drivers Kevin Cogan and Derek Daly.

1989-90

Perkins leaves HRT to cement his own team; claims he woz robbed of Bathurst win

In 1989, the HSV team became the Holden Racing Team, as it is still known today. Limited running in the ATCC meant Perkins only came 17th in the ATCC with a meagre 3 points, but come Bathurst time the two HRT cars were running fairly reliably. Perkins shared his VL with 1988 winner Tomas Mezera, while Neil Crompton drove with Win Percy. The two cars ran pretty much together all race, with Perkins and Mezera coming home first in 6th place.

But come 1990, Perkins had gone his own way again, leaving HRT and running his own Perkins Engineering team. Not only was he building his own car to race, he was also building a bunch of customer cars for others to use. 11th in the ATCC with 16 points boded well for Bathurst, and there Perkins and Mezera came 3rd, although the HRT car of Percy and Allan Grice took the win. Larry contended that he had been robbed of victory by the pace car, although analysis of records would suggest this might not have been the case!

1992

Stuns the Commodore world plonking the older car on the front row at Bathurst

Perkins had always had an eye for the unorthodox, and in 1992 he went back to the future, so to speak. At a time when Holden teams were using the Commodore VN or upgrading to the new Commodore VP with the revamped 1993 V8-only formula in mind, Perkins did the completely unconventional and reverted to a Commodore VL. Some competitive results in the ATCC, where he came 10th with 108 points, proved the car was still up to the task.

For the endurance races, he picked up Bob Jane T-Marts as a sponsor, and Steve Harrington as a co-driver. Together they won the Sandown 500, and at Bathurst Perkins plonked the old beast on the front row of the grid, stunning the current-spec Commodore pilots, and ahead of the 4-wheel-drive 4-wheel-steer 'Godzilla' Nissan GT-R. Electrical problems in the wet conditions, though, meant that Perkins only finished 9th, whereas the Nissan won the race.


1990 saw Larry's own team, Perkins Engineering enter the ATCC, where LP took 11th spot. Here he give it his all at Oran Park, opposite lock, wheels in the air!
1990 saw Larry's own team, Perkins Engineering enter the ATCC, where LP took 11th spot. Here he give it his all at Oran Park, opposite lock, wheels in the air!

1993-94

Takes 4th Bathurst win, and 4th in the ATCC overall standings

Larry again went out on a limb in 1993, when the all-V8 Ford Falcon versus Holden Commodore formula was re-introduced. Whereas the other major Holden teams went with Chevrolet V8 engines, Perkins stuck to a local Holden V8 engine. He started the year in his trusty VL with new long-term Castrol sponsorship, before switching to a new VP. 12th place in the ATCC with only 38 points made Perkins only an outsider as the teams headed to Bathurst.

How wrong the pundits were! Proving his cunning, Perkins and new team-mate Gregg Hansford simply blitzed the field all weekend, taking victory (Perkins' 4th) after Larry had started from pole. Perkins carried this form into 1994, and in the ATCC he won his first ever championship round at Lakeside before claiming 4th overall with 177 points, even though he had always considered the ATCC as no more than a test-bed for the enduros. Another strong performance at Bathurst saw Perkins and Hansford take 3rd.

1995

Tragic death sees Larry link up with future long-time partner Ingall

But tragedy struck at the start of 1995. Perkins and Hansford had now formed a solid working relationship, but in March the ex-motorcycle champion died in a super touring crash at Phillip Island. Perkins regrouped and yet again put in a very solid effort in the championship in his new Commodore VR, winning another round at Sandown, claiming 4th again in the title with 178 points. Coming up to the endurance events, he enlisted Russell Ingall as his new co-driver.

Their tilt at Bathurst couldn't have started worse. At the start, Perkins tangled with pole-sitter Craig Lowndes. The Castrol Commodore was forced to pit with a puncture, and dropped to dead last. By quarter-distance, Perkins and Ingall were a lap down, and seemingly out of the equation. But by very good fortune, Jim Richards and Mark Skaife in the lead car retired, and when the pace car came out Perkins had caught that lap back up, but there was still a lot of work to do.


Perkins and Hansford took all honours at Bathurst in 1993, blitzing the field with pole and a convincing race win.
Perkins and Hansford took all honours at Bathurst in 1993, blitzing the field with pole and a convincing race win.

1995

Incredible Bathurst win rewrites the history books with last to first victory

With about twenty laps left to run, Perkins was back up into the top 5, a remarkable effort already, but outside of striking distance from the leaders. But, miracle of miracles, an incident on the track occurred and the pace car was brought back out. Perkins was now right on the tail of the leading bunch, and he could sniff victory. When the pace car pulled off, cheered on by the crowd, Larry blasted past the Coke Commodores of Brad Jones and Wayne Gardner, and then past Alan Jones's Falcon with 10 laps to go.

Perkins was now up to 2nd. But Jones' team leader, Glenn Seton, had driven beautifully all day and was a seemingly irreducible distance ahead. But no sooner had Perkins passed Jones before Seton heartbreakingly spluttered to a stop with an engine failure, within sight of his maiden victory on the Mountain (and by 2001 he was still yet to win the classic). Perkins and Ingall went on to claim a victory which had seemed not even improbable but totally impossible just six hours earlier.

1996

Plenty of 2nd places but wins are few and far between

Along with his F3 win at Monza in 1975, this was Larry's most satisfying victory yet, and rightly so. He tried to carry that winning momentum into 1996, and after winning another ATCC round at Phillip Island he came 5th overall with 192 points. However, this was a year of total domination (if not annihilation) by Lowndes and HRT, and in a bid to bring about parity between the Commodore and the Falcon, administrators trimmed the front of the Commodore VR's aero kit to reduce downforce.

Perkins was enraged. It was only Lowndes and HRT which had been unbeatable, not Commodores in general. The reduction in downforce hurt his Dunlop tyres in particular. So for Bathurst, he took a major gamble and built a brand new car of the older VP specification, since the VP was not affected by the rule changes. It didn't seem to work, though, and at Bathurst he and Ingall only finished 6th. They weren't helped by Ingall spinning into the sand trap, but really they hadn't been all that competitive.


One of his greatest victories ever, LP and Russell Ingall took their Castrol Commodore to a last place to first place victory at Bathurst in 1995.
One of his greatest victories ever, LP and Russell Ingall took their Castrol Commodore to a last place to first place victory at Bathurst in 1995.

1997

Takes sixth Bathurst win, upstaging Brock in his last race at the Mountain

The end of 1996 saw a major schism develop between the ATCC governing body, and a new group called AVESCO, which was out to represent V8 interests. The result was that AVESCO took over the championship, which was renamed the Australian V8 Supercar Championship. In the 1997 series, Perkins was again near the front in his Commodore VR, once again coming 5th with 548 points, although now it was Ingall taking up the main championship challenge for the Castrol team.

The pair went into the Sandown and Bathurst enduros in excellent shape. They came 2nd in the Sandown 500, but approaching Bathurst all the attention was on Brock, the 9-time Bathurst winner who was to start his last race. After Brock's team-mate Skaife took pole, Brock led the early stages, although Perkins hounded him closely. When the Brock/Skaife car retired, Perkins took over the lead and survived what turned out to be a race of attrition to claim his 6th victory on the Mountain.

1998-99

4th overall again, more wins as Castrol Perkins takes it to Lowndes and HRT

The 1998 season saw the major Holden teams debut a new-shaped Commodore, the VT. While again it was Lowndes and HRT who ruled the roost, it was Castrol Perkins Racing who gave him the longest sustained challenge. Ingall was right up there yet again, while Perkins came 4th once more, on 722 points. To prove their competitiveness they went on to win Sandown, and were only pipped at the post at Bathurst by the Falcon of Jason Bright and Steven Richards.

Continuing with the VT in 1999, Perkins found the going tougher as the V8 Supercar series became the most tightly-contested in the world. He slipped to 9th in the overall rankings on 1232 points, but combined with Ingall to win the Queensland 500 at the new but boring Queensland Raceway, the race which had replaced the Sandown 500. A relatively low-key Bathurst campaign saw them manage only 7th place.


1999 wasn't one of Perkins' best years. He slipped to 9th in the V8 Supercar Championship, Bathurst brought no more glory. Here he races at Eastern Creek, outside of Sydney.
1999 wasn't one of Perkins' best years. He slipped to 9th in the V8 Supercar Championship, Bathurst brought no more glory. Here he races at Eastern Creek, outside of Sydney.

2000

As V8 Supercars get more competitive, Larry find the going tougher

For 2000, there was yet another new Commodore, the VX, but Larry fell further down the points ladder, dropping to 13th with only 752 points. More to the point, he was finding it harder to match the fitness and strength of younger drivers. Twice he stalled on the starting line in championship races, first at Oran Park, then at Sandown. On both occasions he was hit from behind, most memorably at Oran Park, where Paul Morris' Big Kev Commodore burst into flames upon impact.

Bathurst constituted a round of the championship for the first time, but here Perkins' normally bulletproof reliability came into question when his team was forced into an engine change in the hours leading up to the race. Although he and Ingall managed to run fairly strongly for a while, eventually more mechanical problems struck and the pair only came home in a relatively lowly 11th spot.

2001

Best saved for the enduros, but Larry's worst ever Bathurst mistake ends their tilt

2001 has been just as eventful. Yet another rather average showing in the non-endurance rounds of the championship suggested that Perkins might have become a spent force, but he saved his best as always for the enduros. In the Queensland 500, in the dying stages Ingall was chasing down the Falcon of Paul Radisich and Steven Johnson when a rainstorm struck. Radisich slid off; the race was red-flagged as Ingall swept into the lead. But results were backdated a lap, so Perkins and Ingall had to be content with 2nd.

Then at Bathurst, in the latter stages in damp conditions, Perkins drove out of his skin and moved up from well back to 2nd place, close behind the lead Commodore of Todd Kelly and Greg Murphy. When Kelly went off on what was thought to be a patch of ice, Larry assumed the lead, but shortly after pitted. Not realising that the pit lane was also wet, he lost it and clouted a tyre wall on pit entry, severely damaging his front spoiler. With reduced downforce, he and Ingall had to settle for 8th.


Having driver like a man possessed to thunder into the lead at Bathurst in 2001, a minor mistake on the (wet) pitlane saw Perkins smash up the front end of his car.
Having driver like a man possessed to thunder into the lead at Bathurst in 2001, a minor mistake on the (wet) pitlane saw Perkins smash up the front end of his car.

Personal

Considering retirement, to play with his helicopters and tractors!

Perkins finished the 2001 season on 1856 points in 14th place. However, over the Bathurst weekend he confided to commentator Leigh Diffey that, at age 51, he was prepared to step down from full time driving duties in 2002 if a replacement could be found for him. There was little doubt that he would have more Bathursts in him, but maybe not a full season. Though there is yet to be an announcement, with several top drivers still looking for seats in 2002, perhaps LP may well call it quits.

On a personal note, Perkins currently lives in Melbourne with his wife Raelene and children Jack and Nicola. He enjoys flying (he has his own helicopter), travelling around inland Australia, and collecting old tractors. He likes watching AFL, golf and The Simpsons, and enjoys listening to 60s and 70s music for relaxation. His favourite foods are spaghetti marinara and apple pie, and his favourite tracks are, not surprisingly, Bathurst and Monaco.

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