It’s no coincidence that Penrite Racing CEO Barry Ryan’s management style borrows more than a few cues from Supercars Hall of Famer Larry Perkins.
The straight-shooting Ryan worked for Perkins’ Supercars team from 2003 until its sale at the end of ‘08, starting as a race engineer before also adding team management duties.
Ryan stayed on when the team morphed into Kelly Racing before moving to Erebus, initially leading its GT program before building its Supercars squad into a Bathurst-winning force.
This week Ryan took Penrite Racing engineers Al McVean, Mirka De Rosa and crew chief Dennis Huijser to meet Perkins at his workshop, where Larry and son Jack work on various projects.
Among them has been the recently completed restoration of PE 041, pictured above, which served as Larry’s last Bathurst 1000 car in 2003 and Jack’s first in 2006.
“We’d been talking with Jack about going down and seeing Larry for a fair while, just catching up with him and looking at all his projects,” Ryan told Supercars.com.
“Particularly chassis 041, which is the 2003 car they’ve just finished putting back together. I had heaps of involvement in that car.
“I talk about Larry a lot [with the team at Penrite Racing] and I wanted to take Al, Dennis and Mirka to meet him.
“They were all keen as to talk to him and typical Larry, he’s very passionate and technical, and anything they wanted to talk about he was keen to talk about.”
Ryan is a somewhat polarising figure in the Supercars paddock, thanks to his hard-nosed approach and refusal to sugar-coat mistakes.
While he didn’t deliberately model his style off Perkins, the comparison is obvious and one that Ryan wears proudly.
“When I first started working with Larry, I thought I never want to be like Larry! He came across as a grumpy bastard. I was scared of him,” he said.
“But now I see – and people say it – that I have the same sort of traits. There’s a lot worse people you can pick up traits from, so I’m proud of it.
“What I learnt off him is that you’ve got to be harsh but firm with people and that you can’t expect everyone to be the same as you.
“Yesterday Dennis asked Larry how he used to manage so many people, because he had 60 staff when the team was at its biggest.
“He said you’ve got to realise that not everyone has the same skills as your best people, you’ve just got to get the most out of everyone you’ve got and not get frustrated with it.
“At the end of the day he was really, really passionate and focused on winning and I guess I’m the same.
‘But that’s built in me, I don’t think that’s from working for Larry; he just brought more of it out of me when I worked for him.
"He was the most passionate racer that I’ve ever worked with.
“We went through a lot together. We had bad words at times, but had a lot of respect for each other and still do.”
PE 041 was Jack's first Bathurst 1000 car
Long retired from Supercars, Perkins tinkers with a range of engineering projects in his Melbourne workshop, including the Unimog off-road vehicles in which he explores Australia.
Jack meanwhile spearheads the restoration of former Perkins Engineering vehicles such as PE 041, taking great pride in preserving the team’s heritage.
“Jack’s passion for the history is awesome, you can see his eyes light up when he talks about it,” added Ryan.
“He’s probably his Dad’s biggest fan, which is cool for Larry, to see his son follow in his footsteps as much as he can.”
PE 041 will make its track return in Jack’s hands at next month’s Phillip Island Classic, where Larry will also be present as event patron.