HOW A LOTUS HELPED LARRY PERKINS WIN THE BATHURST 1000

Larry Perkins on pole position for the 1993 Bathurst 12 Hour. Pic: an1images.com / Rod Eime

THE early editions of the Bathurst 12 Hour between 1991 and 1994 featured an array of Australia’s leading touring car stars in some unlikely production cars.

From Peter Brock in a Peugeot to Mark Skaife in a Mazda and Glenn Seton in a Saab, the race operated in a parallel universe to the October classic.

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Larry Perkins’ single career Bathurst 12 Hour start came aboard a Lotus Esprit in 1993 and was similarly disconnected from his regular role as a Commodore campaigner.

But as luck would have it, Larry’s laps in the Lotus led directly to a deal with Gregg Hansford to co-drive the Castrol Holden in the Bathurst 1000 later that year.

Perkins’ participation in the production car race came courtesy of Melbourne open-wheeler driver Ron Barnacle and a car prepared by the Lotus factory in England.

“I was good friends with Ron. He asked would I want to do the 12 Hour with him, and I said, ‘oh yeah, why not!’” Perkins recalled on the V8 Sleuth Podcast.

“The importers at Lotus I knew from a long time back, and I thought ‘this’ll be alright.’ I was very pleased to do it.”

Perkins promptly pushed the turbocharged Esprit to pole position, outgunning the highly fancied Mazda and Porsche pilots with a 2:32.89s effort.

LP aboard the Lotus prior to race start. Pic: an1images.com / Rod Eime

The Lotus lapped up the cool conditions on race morning and Perkins went faster still, leaving the best lap of the day at 2:31.77s.

However, the car was significantly delayed by brake issues and eventually retired with engine dramas after nine hours.

Mazda’s RX-7s charged on to victory, its Alan Jones/Garry Waldon entry beating the sister Charlie O’Brien/Gregg Hansford example (delayed by early turbo hose trouble) by two laps.

Before the Lotus expired, Perkins had the chance to watch Hansford’s work behind the wheel at close quarters and liked what he saw.

Perkins, far right, watches on as the Lotus mechanics go to work. Pic: an1images.com / Rod Eime

“I remember following him closely for many, many laps,” Perkins said.

“I was aware it was a 12 hour race and you didn’t have to pass the guy and win in the first corner. His pace was very, very good so I thought I’d just follow him and see how it goes.

“Over those many, many laps, he never ever made a mistake, his line on the first lap was the same as his last lap, etcetera.

“When I finished my stint or that meeting finished, I contacted Gregg and asked him what he was doing for Bathurst because I’ve got a seat for him whenever he wants it.

“That’s how I met dear old Gregg and the rest of it is history.”

Perkins and Hansford celebrate victory in the Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

Perkins and Hansford scored a famous win in that October’s Bathurst 1000 and teamed up again for third place the following year.

While Perkins never returned to the 12 Hour, Hansford won the 1994 event for Mazda alongside Neil Crompton.

Sadly, Hansford was killed in 1995 while racing a Ford Mondeo Super Tourer at Phillip Island. He was posthumously inducted into Bathurst’s Legends Lane in 2018.

The full history of the recently restored 1993 Bathurst winning car is detailed in V8 Sleuth’s book Perkins Engineering: The Cars, 1986-2018.

Sold out in the V8 Sleuth Bookshop, Bathurst’s National Motor Racing Museum holds the last remaining stock. Contact them on (02) 6332 1872 to secure a copy.

LISTEN: Larry Perkins on the V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco