Larry Perkins bowed out of racing rather tearfully at Bathurst in 2003 when he crashed his Castrol Commodore climbing up the mountain.
It’s that long since LP hustled a V8 Supercar around the famous circuit.
LP’s career culminated in six Bathurst wins after turning his back on an open wheel career in Europe in the early 1980’s.
His two V8 Supercars Racing Entitlements Contracts (RECs) were leased out to Kelly Racing when that team was established in 2009 and he has had less of a role in the country’s top touring car category since.
Perkins is now far removed from the sport he has had such an influence on for many decades.
Indeed it is a far cry from 2006 when he managed to land blue chip sponsorship from Jack Daniel’s for both of his Commodores that were driven by Steven Richards and Paul Dumbrell.
On the eve of the 2006 season Larry made a trip to the US and toured the Jack Daniel’s mega factory in Lynchburg, Tennessee as well as a visit to watch the Daytona 500 in February.
While Stateside Perkins was quizzed about his thoughts on a wide range of topics relating to V8 Supercars.
On V8s v NASCAR:
“Well we’re not way behind or anything but the access to the drivers is better than the US because you can imagine when you’ve got 300,000 people trying to get a driver’s autograph it’s quite hard.”
“One of the biggest differences is the machinery. The fact that we’re linked quite strongly to the ordinary street car is one of the biggest things you notice. Whereas NASCAR don’t have the opening doors and the body shape has evolved quite a bit differently than what you find on the street.”
“And the Ford and Holden fanbase is really strong here but it doesn’t seem to be as strong in the US which seems to be more connected with the drivers.”
This was a time when Marcos Ambrose had just embarked on his huge gamble of ditching a secure V8 career and taking the plunge into NASCAR, first finding his feet in the tough truck series.
At the time many believed Ambrose’s chances of making the top grade were slim save for those closest to him like his former team owner Ross Stone who knew he had the goods to make a mark in the cut-throat stock car series.
Perkins was guarded and did not elaborate when pressed over what his views were on how the Ambrose gamble would end up.
“I have no trouble in wishing him well on what he is trying to do in the US,” Perkins said.
“I hope he can succeed in it (but) the whole industry is much bigger than ours.”
ON COMMITMENT AS A TEAM OWNER
“I’m more committed and I’m sort of surprised to hear myself say that.”
“I’ve said it quite a bit over the last few weeks.”
“When I finished with Castrol after eight years and I picked up such a blue chip sponsor in Jack Daniel’s who are so committed to this sponsorship arrangement it just is a breath of fresh air and I mean that with no disrespect to Castrol.”
“Here I am over here in America, a guest of a company who have allowed me to come and see how they do it.”
“The whole company is just steaming with enthusiasm and at the same time they have no illusions about it.”
“They’ve done one season of NASCAR now and didn’t do all that well but they went on and extended their contract with Richard Childress Racing.”
VIEWS ON HIS INCUMBENT DRIVER STEVE RICHARDS
“I’ve said to Steve that ‘you better become a winner’. I’ve not minced words with any of my team members. We have to all perform if we want to be winners.”
“Whether that be a crew member dropping a wheel nut or whatever. We do as much as we can as a crew to control the situation.”
“But it finally comes down to the drivers.”
“Too many of them still suffer from blood rushes and we all know what we mean by that.”
“I have said to Steve and Paul forget all this about this thing ‘we nearly won, we came second, we came seventh, we made a mistake and I won’t do it again’. That’s not professional enough.”
“You’ve got to get out there and be the one that makes no mistakes. We want to wear the crown as being the winner and do all the right things for our sponsors.”
“That means intense concentration and application and we’ve lifted the bar.”
ON THE TOPIC OF MORE CONTINUITY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
“We are grappling with that in V8s. I’d hate right now that I’d have to race every weekend and we’d have 32 races.”
“There’s no way I’d be comfortable in seeking a sponsor and adding a considerable multiplying factor to the budget because I don’t believe Australia with its 20-odd million people can support that.”
“We’re faced with either run as we are forever or reduce the amount of time we occupy racing in other words if we have 14 rounds we could knock it off in 14 weeks but that leaves too big a gap on the other side.”
“There’s going to be a compromise and it will only be slow evolution if it alters it at all.”
ON WHETHER V8s HAVE REACHED MARKET SATURATION
“I believe we have. There are less teams around this year than last year.”
“That’s a pretty big message that we should all take on board.”
“We are limited by our population growth. Our awareness up and down the high streets of Australia – we’re well known and we’ve got a very popular industry.”
“We are not behind America in that context and we’re still on a growth curve.”
“But the dollars eventually get too high and that’s what eventually will limit it.”
ON NASCAR DRIVERS ADAPTING TO V8S AND VICE VERSA
“I think it would take a NASCAR driver longer to adapt to our road racing than a V8 Supercar driver to adapt to NASCAR.”
“In both cases I wouldn’t expect it to happen very quickly at all.”
“I’ve had NASCAR guys ring me up over the years wanting to have a drive and I’ve never felt that I could afford to pay for their apprenticeship.”
“I see no reason to change that.”
“I make an exception for European drivers because over the last 30 or 40 years a lot more Europeans have come out and been on the pace than American drivers.”
“And that’s because Europe grows up through having road circuits where in America its oval racing. Obviously there’s exceptions but in a broad statement Europeans handle it better than Americans.”
ON THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN V8S
“I’ve made no bones about it, the judiciary side of it has to go professional.”
“They’ve got to get rid of people who are honourary with no disrespect to them. All levels have to be professional.”
“Until that happens we’re always going to have these controversies, arguments and nonsense.”
“V8s and CAMS will both have a big whinge about me saying this but blokes like myself can’t sit back on our hands and let them cock it up again. They’ve got to fix it and it’s not hard.”
“Always remember that CAMS are the governing body of motorsport in this country and V8s are just a promotions company.”
“I’m concerned about the powerbase right now and I think there are quite a few people becoming concerned about it.”
WHO IS THE IDEAL MOTOR RACING STEWARD?
“An individual who’s done racing. They don’t have to have been a world champion as such.”
“It has to be a professional person. The guys who have come out of the legal profession are by far the best.”
“They understand rules, they understand fairness etc. You’ve got to have that calibre of person.”
These days LP doesn’t attend many of the races.
It’s a pity because the whole show has lost a few revs without larrikin Larry’s colourful charm.