The tyre war and gamble behind Perkins/Bowe epic

10 May
"I had some really good races with Larry, and have fond recollections of that race"
3 mins by James Pavey, Pics by AN1 Images
  • Larry Perkins, John Bowe produced closest Perth finish in 1997

  • Perkins beat Bowe to victory by 0.11s 27 years ago

  • Bowe says "racing's better than it's ever been" in 2024

At the upcoming Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint, CARCO.com.au Raceway will tick over 97 ATCC/Supercars Championship races in a storied 51-year history.

However, a race conducted nearly 27 years ago still holds a record to his day, thanks to a bold gamble and two hard-nosed veterans competing amid a tyre war.

In 1997, Larry Perkins and John Bowe fought out their wildest battle, with the former emerging victorious in a stunning sprint race.

Their battle came in the era where there was no control tyre in the championship, meaning Perkins and Bowe's Dunlop-shod teams took on Bridgestone (Holden Racing Team, Glenn Seton Racing, Stone Brothers Racing) and Yokohama (Coca-Cola Racing, Gibson Motorsport, Tony Longhurst).

In those days, the tyre war led to results that were often dependent on which track suited which rubber brand, rather than which team or driver.

Perth flashback: Perkins denies Bowe in '97 thriller

In 1997, it came down to a gamble; the first Perth sprint started on a wet track, but Bowe and Perkins, who started eighth respectively, gambled and started on slicks.

The track dried over the 20-lap distance, with their Dunlops carrying them through the field. Perkins ultimately bested Bowe by just 0.1164s, which after 27 years, still remains the closest competitive race finish in championship history in Perth.

When asked by Supercars.com about the 1997 race, Bowe said: "That one was cool.

"I had some really good races with Larry, and have fond recollections of that race.

“Perth usually had pretty high tyre deg. That’s become buzzword of motorsport, in the last few years, hasn’t it?

"We had a lot of tyre competition back then — Dunlop and Bridgestone probably had upper the hand in those years.

“A place like Perth, or Eastern Creek where you get excessive tyre deg and you throw the marbles up in the air, it adds to the spectacle."


Perkins was inspired by teammate Russell Ingall's efforts from the previous round at Lakeside, with Ingall winning from fourth on the grid.

After the Perth race, Perkins said: “I’m learning from Russell — you’ve got to press on when you’re down the back.

"The days of protected species up the front you’re not allowed to pass, they’re well gone.

“I’m absolutely rapt, I'm delighted I did it myself today — it’s the same old story, Bowe’s going to give you a race."

Fast forward 26 years, and Perth was again at the centre of a stunning battle, with eventual series champion Brodie Kostecki denied by Shane van Gisbergen in a thrilling, and somewhat controversial, battle to the end.

Unforgettable Perth Moments: Kostecki and SVG go to war

Hall of Famer Bowe, who retired from Supercars in 2007, likes where the latest iteration of the racing is heading, saying recent battles in Melbourne and New Zealand contributed to racing that's "better than it's ever been."

"I particularly enjoyed the races at the Grand Prix with no stops. You weren't relying on fuel drops and the like,” Bowe said.

“The racing's been fantastic. There's some negativity around if you read too much social media, but I reckon the racing's better than it's ever been, to be honest.

"Taupō really created some interesting scenarios. Bits of the track were grippy and bits weren't. That's all good for entertainment.

"I’m an enthusiast at the end of the day, as I have been since I was a child."

The season will resume in Perth on May 17-19. Tickets for the Bosch Power Tools Perth SuperSprint are on sale now. International viewers can follow all the action on Superview.

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