LARRY Perkins is celebrated in Australian motorsport history as an acclaimed engineer and six-time winner of the Bathurst 1000.
His overseas open wheeler career, one that took him all the way to Formula 1, sadly never gets the level of accolades it deserves, but the story of how a young ‘LP’ ended up racing for BRM in Formula 1 is a cracker.
Perkins made 11 Formula 1 GP starts, mainly for back marker teams, though he did end up driving for Bernie Ecclestone at Brabham for a brief period.
But his link to end up driving for BRM, once a successful team in the 1960s but reduced to a backmarker by the 1970s, all came via a random meeting with the head of the team a few years earlier.
As Perkins detailed in Australian Motorsport News’ Issue 400, sitting in a park eating a banana in 1975 helped him open the door to driving for the famous team.
“Some drivers get their breakthrough drives through persistence and doggedness,” he said.
“This is not one of those stories.
“It was about September in 1975. I was in Hyde Park, sitting in my Mk 1 Cortina, watching the ducks and eating a banana. I was dressed in shit jeans, with one foot out the window and enjoying autumn in London.
“Another car drew up alongside – a Jaguar, with a chauffeur in the front and a big fat bloke in the back. I recognised him right away; it was Louis Stanley, or Lord Louis Stanley, as he liked to be known. He owned the BRM Formula 1 team, and there he was, in the back of his Jag, only 1.5m from me.
“‘How you doing, Mr Stanley, sir?’ I said to him, once I had finished the banana.
“He was a bit shaken, not thinking for a minute that someone might have recognised him.
“’Who might you be?’ he asked me.
“I am one of those racing drivers and I may just end up racing in Formula 1, in one of your cars, I said.
“Then I explained to him that I was from Australia and that I had just won the European Formula 3 Championship, which was a pretty big deal in those days.
He was so thrilled that I had recognised him, and he asked, “Can you come to see me at the Dorchester tomorrow?
“So I did. I did not drive a BRM in a Grand Prix until 1977, and when I finished 15th in South Africa, it was BRM’s (race) last appearance in a GP. And it all started with eating a banana in Hyde Park. It was divine intervention.”
Speaking of ‘LP’, if you missed out on a copy of the Perkins Engineering Car History book we published last year, give the National Motor Racing Museum a call on 02 6332 1872 to order a copy – they have some stock remaining, every book is signed by Larry and individually numbered.
Or, contact them via their Facebook page here.