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Wednesday, May 29, 2024


SEBASTIAN Vettel’s retirement announcement reminded us of a quirky factoid from his career: the time he raced against Larry and Jack Perkins.

The future four-time world champion faced off against the father and son duo in the Ultimate Speed Comparison at the 2007 Formula 1 ING Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel was equipped with the previous year’s BMW Sauber F1 car, Larry piloted a BMW 320i road car, and Jack was aboard one of Perkins Engineering’s VZ Commodores which was the sole V8 Supercar on track at Albert Park that weekend.

The V8s were absent from the support program for that year’s Grand Prix, citing scheduling conflicts.

Jack’s car was a significant one in PE history: it was built in 2002 as Larry’s final full-time V8 Supercar, then in 2006 became his son’s car for Jack’s first season in the second-tier Fujitsu Series.

Oh to be a fly on the wall for that chat! Pic: an1images.com / Andrew Hall

Interestingly, several changes had to be made to the Commodore as part of its deregistration as a V8 Supercars so that the speed comparison laps couldn’t double as a mini test session.

The profile of the trim ahead of the rear wheels was changed and the Gurney flap removed from the rear wing in order to distort the VZ’s aerodynamic profile, while softer D11 Dunlops, purchased off the rack from Stuckey Tyre Service, were on the rims instead of the company’s control V8 tyre.

For Vettel, who had yet to start a Grand Prix, his appearance at the event marked his first year at Albert Park in a Formula 1 car, and he took part in Friday practice – as well as the Ultimate Speed Challenge – as part of his role as BMW Sauber’s test and reserve driver

Larry beats Jack and Seb to the line in Sunday’s final USC sprint. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

Vettel had made his F1 race weekend debut the previous year under rules that allowed certain teams to run a third car during Friday practice. The German’s first appearance came mid-season at the Turkish Grand Prix, setting an unwanted record by earning his first fine just nine seconds into his F1 career by speeding on his way out of pit lane!

The rules changed for 2007 in that the team’s ‘third’ driver had to replace one of the team’s two regular drivers, so Vettel started the Australian GP weekend aboard Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber F1.07 and earnt headlines by setting the third fastest time in opening practice before handing the car back to his Polish teammate for the rest of the event.

“You do look at the time sheet and see the names below you and you can fantasise, but that’s all it is,” Vettel said afterwards.

Vettel prepares to hop into Kubica’s BMW Sauber F1.07 for the opening practice session at the 2007 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. Pic: an1images.com / Dirk Klynsmith

“I will test again at other rounds during the season, but I don’t know how many. My target is to have a regular drive in one or two years.”

He went on to make his first Grand Prix start at the United States GP later that season, scoring a championship point for eighth place while replacing an injured Kubica, before being moved into a full-time drive with Toro Rosso later that season.

Vettel revealed his intention to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season on the eve of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

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