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Perkins, Blanchard relationship goes full circle

JACK Perkins’ move to the Blanchard Racing Team marks a well-publicised reunion between the star co-driver and 2010 Supercars champ James Courtney.

But what you may not realise is that it also continues ties between the Perkins and Blanchard families that stretch three generations and almost 70 years.

It started with Jack’s grandfather, Eddie Perkins, and BRT principal Tim Blanchard’s grandfather, John Blanchard Senior.

“John Blanchard Senior was a mechanic on my grandfather’s Round Australia Trial efforts in the 1950s,” Perkins explained to V8 Sleuth.

“Some of the details are a bit sketchy, but I believe ‘Senior’ was working for a Volkswagen dealership at the time, which is how he became involved with grandad’s Beetle.”

Eddie and Lance Perkins won the 1956 Round Australia Trial in this Beetle. Pic: Perkins Family

The Perkins and Blanchard clans have crossed paths at various stages since.

Jack and Tim were born less than a year apart and were effectively teammates for their earliest years of racing in go-karts during the late 1990s and into the 2000s.

“In some ways it’s come full circle for Tim and I,” continues Perkins.

“Me, Tim and also Benny Small (son of legendary race car preparer Les Small) were run by the same guy, Bobby Smith, in Rookies when we were 12, 13, 14 years old.

“Tim was living in Queensland, so he would fly down to come racing in Victoria, and the three of us kids would effectively take it in turns with who’s house we were staying at or whatever.

“My Dad would on very few occasions go to the track. John (Tim’s father) could go a little bit more often, but principally our Dads were always busy and that’s why Bobby used to take us.

“We ended up spending a lot of time together and we’ve ended up being friends ever since.”

Their fathers were of course busy growing their empires; Larry Perkins with Perkins Engineering and John Blanchard with the CoolDrive automotive parts business.

‘LP’ was the guest speaker at the opening of CoolDrive’s new warehouse in Box Hill, Melbourne, in 1999, with both enjoying a close relationship with Castrol.

After karts, Jack and Tim went on to race against each other briefly in Formula Ford and eventually in Supercars.

“Tim is a very handy driver, he won national titles in karting, and he won the Formula Ford Championship,” Perkins adds.

“He probably never got the best opportunities to show what he’s capable of in Supercars, but anyone who raced against him in those junior categories would have seen his ability.”

Blanchard, who has risen to Chief Operating Officer at CoolDrive, is yet to confirm whether he’ll suit-up for a 14th crack at the Bathurst 1000 in 2024, when BRT expands to a two-car team.

Perkins, though, has defied suggestions he’d step back from driving after losing his seat at Erebus Motorsport and is already enjoying his new challenge.

Perkins drove the #3 BRT Mustang post-season. Pic: Supplied

The 37-year-old had his first taste of a BRT Ford Mustang during a Winton test day earlier this month, making for interesting comparisons to the Camaro he raced at Sandown and Bathurst.

“I was obviously really keen to see what the Ford was like,” he said.

“When we started the day, it was a little bit foreign to me but as the day kind of got on and working closely with the guys, it ended up feeling pretty good compared to what I’d driven earlier this year.

“The engine felt a lot closer than I expected based on what I’d been told… but Winton is not a very good circuit for engine or aero, so I can’t give a complete parity analysis!”

Perkins was just the second driver to sample race-specification versions of both the Camaro and Mustang, following Bathurst winner Richie Stanaway’s maiden laps in a Grove Mustang.

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