The team was founded in late 1985 by former Formula One driver and Australian motor sports legend, Larry Perkins, in preparation for its debut in the then Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) in 1986. The team appeared with a Holden Commodore VK Group A SS, complete with the racing number #11, and Larry Perkins at the wheel.
Whilst still to win a championship, the team is widely recognised as "endurance race specialists", with many victories in 500 km and 1000 km races in Australia.
After having been the engineering mastermind behind at hat-trick of Sandown and Bathurst victories for the Holden Dealer Team between 1982 and 1984, Larry Perkins left the team in early 1985 to pursue his own racing business interests. Perkins Engineering commenced operations out of a small factory in Roberna Street, Moorabbin, Victoria in late 1985. The first priority was to get a car built for the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship, to be used as a tool to promote the new business as a specialist race car engineering firm.
With sponsorship from Enzed, and extra support from the Giltrap Motor Group from New Zealand, Perkins Engineering ran a Holden VK Commodore during the 1986 and 1987 Australian seasons, with Larry Perkins himself as driver. David "Skippy" Parsons co-drove in the endurance races in 1986, and 1967 World Formula One Champion Denny Hulme co-drove in 1987.
When the relationship between Holden and Peter Brock broke down in the course of 1987, Holden Motorsport was established to oversee Holden's ongoing motorsport program. Perkins Engineering was the first team signed under the program, and Perkins was the first driver signed. When the first "official" factory Holden team commenced for the 1988 season as "Holden Special Vehicles", it was actually a rebranding of Perkins Engineering, combined with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) out of England.
The team ran an older 1987-spec Holden VL Commodore for the first half of the 1988 season, while the evolution car was homologated and prepared for later in the season. Drivers Jeff Allam and Armin Hahne, both with long associations with TWR, joined the team for the Sandown 500, with Perkins and Hulme in the lead car. Hahne was a late replacement for Tom Walkinshaw, who was unable to attend due to the death of his father.
Walkinshaw re-joined the team for Bathurst, albeit in a car built by TWR in England and shipped out to Australia, rather than the Perkins Engineering-built car from Sandown, which was used as a spare car. This third car was originally slated to be driven by John Harvey and Allan Grice, however Grice made other arrangements, teaming up with Win Percy in an FAI-sponsored Commodore.
Perkins and Hulme staged a memorable one-two victory in the support race at the Adelaide Formula One Grand Prix in November - no other car came close to them throughout the event.
The new year saw the dissolution of the HSV/Perkins Engineering arrangement, as it was only intended to be a 12-month contract. With no sponsor, and limited budget, Perkins Engineering ran one of its 1988 cars in only the Victorian-based races, and the future didn't look bright for the team.
However, Holden came to rescue, and once again contracted Perkins Engineering to run it's "factory" team for the 1989 endurance races. This was the first team to be known as the "Holden Racing Team", albeit still a rebranding of Perkins Engineering. Win Percy, Neil Crompton, and Steve Harrington joined Larry in the team for Sandown, however, Harrington was replaced by Tomas Mezera for Bathurst. The Perkins/Mezera car finished sixth and the Percy/Crompton car, seventh.
Upon reaching the Adelaide Grand Prix support races, tensions between Perkins Engineering and Holden Motorsport were again heightened, when Holden management insisted that the two cars be driven by Win Percy and Neil Crompton, shuffling Perkins out of a drive in his own team.
Rumours abounded that Perkins would sever all relationships between Perkins Engineering and Holden, and that Perkins Engineering would take over the engineering and running of two Ford Sierra's for close friend Allan Moffat, with sponsorship from the ANZ Bank.
The Moffat/ANZ rumours did not come to fruition, and the team built a new plain white Holden VL Commodore for the 1990 season. Aside from some minor sponsorship from long time supporters such as Castrol, the car's main "sponsor" was "Perkins Engineering", and it ran the entire 1990 season this way. A few other minor sponsors were picked up for the endurance races, where Tomas Mezera co-drove. After a good showing at Sandown, the pair pulled off a third-place finish at Bathurst, after narrowly missing the win after a safety-car mix up.
Season 1991 saw the return of Peter Brock to Holden through his Advantage Racing team - however, with no engineering base, Brock contracted Perkins Engineering for 12-months to operate, using Brock's long-standing Mobil sponsorship. Early results were slim, and despite some mechanical issues, the team was the second best Holden team, behind the Holden Racing Team, in its latest incarnation.
After the end of the Advantage Racing arrangement, Perkins Engineering was again left without a sponsor, so the plain-white 1990 car returned - (albeit painted red, after having been leased to Daily Planet Racing in 1991) - once again, with "Perkins Engineering" as the initial primary sponsor. A number of other sponsors became the "main" sponsor periodically during the season. In NSW-based events, the car was known as the "Statewide Roads Commodore", and in Western Australia, and South Australia, it was the "Kreepy Krauly Commodore". Everywhere else, it was again "Perkins Engineering" on the car.
However, for the endurance races, and Adelaide, Perkins Engineering picked up significant sponsorship from Bob Jane T-Marts, and the car was painted yellow and blue. It won first time out in the Sandown 500, after a late race battle with Tony Longhurst, and Perkins qualified it on the front row at Bathurst. Steve Harrington, who had driven briefly for the team in 1989, co-drove at both events.
Castrol, a long-time ancillary supporter of Perkins Engineering, came on-board in 1993 as major sponsor, flushing the team with more funding than it was used to, and rivalling the Mobil dollars of 1991. The team were still in the midst of building a new Holden VP Commodore for the season, so the old 1990 car was once again repainted, this time into the corporate colours of Castrol.
With the new car making its debut at the Phillip Island round of the championship, the team spent most of 1993 developing it into a race-winning package. Even after an engine failure at Sandown, the team fronted at Bathurst, full of confidence that the car was fast enough to win. And win it did. The car was the fastest in all but one session, and won after a race long battle with Jim Richards and Mark Skaife. Gregg Hansford had joined to team to co-drive, and the team had finally arrived.
Season 1994 was tough for all Holden teams, after the rival Ford Falcon was granted a number of aerodynamic concessions during the off-season, and despite a Holden winning the championship in the hands of Mark Skaife, the endurance races always looked like Ford wins.
Preparing for 1995 with a new Holden VR Commodore, Perkins Engineering had been asked by Castrol to increase it's presence to two cars. Perkins resisted, saying he wasn't ready to expand the team. Had the team expanded at this point, it would be almost certain that Gregg Hansford would have driven the second car. Hansford had driven the 1994 car in the season-opening Winfield Triple Challenge, and Greg Crick drove the car at Sandown, with a view to purchasing the car, but this was all the team was prepared to do at that stage.
A few weeks later, Hansford was tragically killed in a Super Touring race at Phillip Island, and the team was left without its preferred endurance race co-driver. Perkins himself was said to be devastated at Hansford's death.
Eventually, then England-based Austalian, Russell Ingall was chosen to fill the vacant endurance seat. After a forgettable Sandown 500, Perkins and Ingall won Bathurst after being in last place after one lap, and more than a lap down after 50 laps. Their charge back to the front, after a start-line incident with Craig Lowndes damaged the car, to take the lead with nine laps remaining is considered possibly the best Bathurst 1000 drive of all time.
With increased money from Castrol and associated sponsors, Perkins Engineering finally expanded to two cars for 1996. Ingall returned home from England permanently, and took up the drive, using the #8 racing number. The season turned out to be one of the best for the team from a championship perspective, Ingall finishing second and Perkins finishing fourth. They dominated the Phillip Island round with a one-two result.
After finishing sixth at Bathurst in an older Holden VP Commodore - an experiment to work around the convoluted aerodynamic rules of the time, the team prepared itself for an all out assault on the 1997 championship.
1998 saw the team initially starting in a pair of Holden VS Commodore's, and with Ingall establishing himself, along with Craig Lowndes as the man/men to beat. Perkins debuted a new Holden VT Commodore mid-season, before handing it over to Ingall for the remainder of the season. The championship went right down to the final round - however a bad start by Ingall, after tangling with Tony Longhurst saw him lose too many points to Lowndes, and second place was all that could be salvaged.
1999 saw Perkins Engineering enter into a relationship with Wayne Gardner to prepare and run a Coca-Cola sponsored Commodore for the year. This meant the team had three cars to look after at the workshop and at the race meetings, giving them more engineering data than they could get from two cars. Gardner had run his own team previously, but with reduced Coca-Cola money, didn't have the resources to run it himself anymore.
The year 2000 saw more expansion for the team. Previously, although running two cars in the championship, the endurance races were now included in the championship - (they weren't previously), so the team needed to run both cars at the endurance races, whereas they had previously run only one. Christian Murchison and Luke Youlden ran the #8 car in the endurance races. Perkins and Ingall finished 11th at Bathurst.
The deal with Wayne Gardner completed, Perkins Engineering again ran two cars for Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall in 2001. The team finished 8th at Bathurst, and 2nd in a controversial finish to the Queensland 500. Adam Macrow and Luke Youlden drove the #8 car in the endurance events.
There were signs at this stage that Larry Perkins was thinking about life outside of the drivers seat, with rumours at season end that Steven Richards would be moving from Ford Tickford Racing to Perkins Engineering, to replace Larry in the driving seat of the #11 car.
While this rumour proved to be true, nobody expected that in doing so, the team would expand once again to three cars, #8 for Ingall, #11 for Perkins, and #16 for Richards. Perkins and Paul Dumbrell teamed up for the endurance races, with Ingall pairing with Richards, who finished second at Bathurst. Perkins and Dumbrell finished fifth.
The end of the season was a time of upheaval for the team, with Russell Ingall leaving the team after eight seasons, moving to Stone Brothers Racing, who ran the rival Ford Falcon product. Ensuring that 2003 would have a completely different flavour for the team, Perkins also announced that he would step down from full-time driving, handing the reins over to Richards and Dumbrell for the season.
Perkins would return for the endurance races, teaming with Richards. Dumbrell teamed with Tomas Mezera, returning to the team for the first time since 1991. Richards and Perkins finished in fourth placed at Bathurst, but not before Larry severely damaged the #11 Holden VY Commodore at The Cutting during practice on Saturday morning. This caused the car to miss the Top Top Shootout, for which Richards had qualified. Dumbrell and Mezera finished in 14th.
This accident at Bathurst prompted Larry to completely retire from driving, allowing him to now focus on the management and engineering side of the team.
For 2004, Richards and Dumbrell remained with the team, however an arrangement with Rod Nash Racing saw Tony Longhurst arrive at Perkins Engineering, in a third Castrol sponsored Commodore, but running under Nash's licence. Longhurst ran as #7 in a new Holden VY Commodore, alongside a new #11 VY for Richards. Dumbrell started in an old Holden VX Commodore from 2003.
Perkins Engineering also ran the #75 Toll sponsored car for Anthony Tratt, after Tratt ended his relationship with Ford, and needed somewhere to start on the Holden side. Perkins Engineering now had access to data from four cars simultaneously.
Longhurst badly crashed the #7 car at the Clipsal 500 on a cool down lap during practice, something Larry described as "dumb" for an experienced driver. Longhurst was demoted to the VX and Dumbrell promoted into the VY for the next round.
Come the endurance races, Steven Richards teamed up with his father, six-time Bathurst winner Jim Richards in the #11 VY, and Dumbrell and Longhurst were teamed in the #8 VY. Jamie Whincup and Alex Davison were drafted in to drive the #7 VX, finishing in ninth place. Dumbrell and Longhurst failed to finish. Tratt teamed up with Tomas Mezera to finish 18th.
Steven and Jim finished the race in 21st position, 13 laps behind, after having to stop for repairs after striking a kangaroo on the lead in to The Cutting at about two-thirds race distance.
For 2005, the team was again reduced to two-cars, running a pair of Holden VY Commodore's for Richards (#11) and Dumbrell (#24). Matthew Coleman and Christian D'Agostin were drafted in for the endurance races.
The Rod Nash Racing relationship continued, with Alex Davison driving the Autobarn sponsored car, with #7 on the side. Dumbrell raced this car in the overseas events, as a licence swap between seasons left Perkins Engineering with a licence that didn't qualify the #24 car for the offshore events.
Neither car finished at Bathurst, leaving the team with possibly it's worst ever result at the mountain. Dumbrell had hit the wall leading out of the cutting just after he had taken over the car from Richards who started the race, when apparent suspension damage caused him to strike the tyres at Griffin's Bend. Returning to the pits, the team found nothing more than cosmetic damage, but upon returning to the circuit, the front left wheel came loose, throwing the car against the outside wall at Griffin's Bend, and then across to the other side of the circuit against the wall.
Unfortunately, the wheel came away from the car, and smashed through the windscreen of Craig Lowndes car. Neither Dumbrell or Lowndes were injured, but the same could not be said for Lowndes' car, which suffered a caved in roof and windscreen. The car continued in the race, minus the front and rear windscreens, and after some hasty panel work.
Late in the season, Richards and Dumbrell swapped numbers, with Richards using #24, and Dumbrell #11.
At the end of the 2005 season, long time sponsor Castrol announced that they were leaving the team. Spirit maker Jack Daniel's replaced Castrol. Though not the team's best season, 2006 saw both Dumbrell and Richards score various high finishes, with Richards winning the Western Australian round for the second time as in many years. The 2006 season also saw the team run its first full-time program in the Fujitsu Series, with Jack Perkins and Shane Price driving, finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively in the championship.
Perkins Engineering ran a pair of Holden VZ Commodore's for 2006, again for Richards (now in #7) and Dumbrell (#11).
Richards and Dumbrell again teamed up for Bathurst, finishing fifth in the #7 Jack Daniel's Commodore, while Jack Perkins and Shane Price shared the #11 car into a DNF, after Perkins, who had started the race, heavily shunted a disabled Mark Skaife over the crest of the hill in Mountain Straight. Even though it was not his fault, Perkins later apologised to Skaife.
At the end of the 2006 season, both Richards and Dumbrell announced that they were leaving the team. Richards moved to Ford Performance Racing, and Dumbrell to Paul Weel Racing. The late blow left the team our of the market for any recognised, top line driver, so Jack Perkins and Shane Price were promoted from the Fujitsu Series, to run in the main championship.
Despite showing promising result, particularly at circuits they were familiar with, Price and Perkins delivered overall disappointing results. Rumours amongst the fans that Jack Daniel's were not pleased with the lack of results, saw both Jack Daniel's and the publicly endorse both drivers as "the future". Perkins continued to race until just before the Symmons Plains round, having just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, with Marcus Marshall, who had driven for the team at Sandown and Bathurst, replacing him for the final two rounds of the season.
Upon losing Perkins, the team signed former HRT driver Todd Kelly for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Kelly was initially expected to drive the #11 car, but was moved to the #7 car at the request of Jack Daniel's, who felt that with Kelly's higher chances of higher results, they wanted him in the car associated with their "Old No7 Brand".
The racing number 11 has become synonymous with the team, and it has appeared on their racing cars in every season since 1986. It has become as significant in Australian motor sport, as has Peter Brock's famous "05" and Dick Johnson's number "17".
Legend has it that Perkins chose the number 11 for his car because "it's really easy to carry spare stickers - I only have to get the printers to make me up a box full of 1's". This simple, no nonsense approach is typical of almost everything that Larry does.
At the start of the 2005 season, Perkins Engineering almost lost the use of its famous number 11. At the end of the previous season, Larry sold his two Level 1 racing licences to Craig Gore, and purchased a single Level 2 licence, and leased a second from Bap Romano. Racing numbers are attached to the licences, not the teams who use them, and Gore's WPS Racing was ready to use the #11 and #8 from the old Perkins-held licences.
Perkins fans were incensed, and many were vocal about the return of #11 to its "rightful" home. Perkins, along with then sponsor, Castrol, approached Gore and V8 Supercars Australia to have the numbers returned. While Gore kept #8, he allowed the return of #11 to Perkins Engineering. The team ran #11 and #24 (the number associated with the Romano licence), and the fans were appeased.
The team has used various other number for second and third cars in the team over the years, details of many of these below:
Perkins Engineering has won the classic Bathurst 1000 race a total of three times - in 1993, 1995, and 1997. Perkins himself drove in all three victories, co-driving with Gregg Hansford in 1993, and Russell Ingall in 1995, and 1997. Cars built by Perkins also won Bathurst in 1982, 1983, and 1984, while he was employed as chief engineer for the Holden Dealer Team.
The team's 1993 Bathurst victory was all about speed. The #11 Castrol Holden VP Commodore was clearly the fastest car all week, topping every practice and qualifying session, except the first practice session, in which the car placed second. The race was a race in three, between Perkins and Hansford, Mark Skaife and Jim Richards in a Winfield sponsored Commodore, and Tomas Mezera and Win Percy in a Holden Racing Team Commodore. When Percy crashed the #15 car after a throttle jammed, the race was a straight fight between Perkins/Hansford and the Skaife/Richards car. The outright speed of the Perkins car saw the team home, despite a late race flurry of rain, which made tyre selection into a lottery.
While not the fastest car all week, the #11 Castrol Holden VR Commodore was close to the front in most sessions, and the race looked like being a battle between Wayne Gardner, Craig Lowndes, Glenn Seton and the Perkins car. At the start, a minor collision between Perkins and Lowndes saw the tyre valve from Perkins front right wheel torn off, resulting in the deflation of the tyre, and a slow lap back around to the pits. After replacing the tyre, and checking for other damage, Perkins roared down pit lane, trying to stay on the lead lap, a feat he accomplished.
The car stayed on the lead lap, until a minor safety-car hiccup saw it go down a lap, and seemingly out of race contention. New co-driver Russell Ingall was told by the team to not worry about the car, and just push 110% for the rest of the day - to spare nothing. When the leading Richards/Skaife Commodore retired with a failed diff, Ingall scrambled the car back onto the lead lap. Between them, Perkins and Ingall spent the rest of the race gradually whittling back the gap to the leaders.
Following a late race safety-car intervention, Perkins (who had just returned to the car), found himself in sixth place, and only about 10 seconds behind the leader, Glenn Seton. Following the exit of the safety car, Perkins picked off all the cars ahead of him over the next three laps, with the exception of Seton, who had responded to Larry's charge, and started turning similar lap times. Seton seemed set for victory.
However, with nine laps remaining, the extra strain Seton was putting through his already tiring engine proved to be too much - a broken valve spring forcing the car into retirement, and leaving Perkins in front for his team's second Bathurst crown, and his fifth as a driver.
Racing cars built by Perkins Engineering have long held a reputation for reliability, and the 1997 event saw the value of this become truly evident. Once again, one of the fastest cars for most of the week, it seemed however that the Brock/Skaife Holden Racing Team car, the Greg Murphy/Lowndes Holden Racing Team car, the Gardner/Crompton Coca-Cola car, and the Alan Jones/Jason Bright/Scott Pruett Komatsu car were forces to be reckoned with.
However, one by one, these cars fell by the wayside. Craig Lowndes crashed the #15 car out at McPhillamy Park, the #05 car suffered an engine failure with Skaife at the wheel, Gardner crashed at Forrest Elbow, and Jones had a string of mechanical dramas. The only hiccup for the Perkins Engineering car was a run across the dirt by Ingall at the bottom of The Chase, after a fuel surge at the end of his stint, caused the engine to stall.
It was a clear victory for reliability.
The following is a list of drivers who have competed in Perkins Engineering built/entered vehicles in top-level Touring Car/V8 Supercar events: