Bathurst legend makes historic outback discovery

Bathurst 1000 legend Larry Perkins has played a major role in the unearthing of long-lost and historically-significant artefacts in the Australian outback.

Bathurst legend makes historic outback discovery
Podium: Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden with the Larry Perkins Trophy
Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott and Larry Perkins
Larry Perkins
A distraught Larry Perkins must be contemplating retirement
Larry Perkins
Larry Perkins

The six-time Bathurst winner – pictured above with the Larry Perkins Trophy – and his brother Peter scoured the Simpson Desert in Central Australia to unearth a stash of equipment abandoned by explorer Henry Vere Barclay way back in 1904.

The equipment had been tossed by Barclay and his team as they desperately searched for water to survive, previous attempts in 1915 and then just five years ago to re-discover the 400 pounds of gear proving unsuccessful.

Perkins, who has taken up re-tracing outback explorer routes since retiring from motor racing in 2012, worked from hand-written diary entries to establish how he thought other expeditions had gone wrong and where the equipment might be.

According to a report by ABC TV programme 7.30, the discovery then took four-and-a-half days of searching on a quad bike to come together.

"Peter said 'What's over there?' Which he had said 100 times before," Perkins told 7.30.

"It was only 40 metres away, an unfamiliar shape, so I jumped off the bike and then we could see that it was camel tanks, water tanks that could only have been Barclay's gear.

"And I turned around to Peter and I said 'we've found it'.

"It was a fantastic feeling that I will never forget."

Perkins is a true legend of Australian motorsport, a stint in Europe as a young driver yielding an European Formula 3 title in 1975 and 11 grand prix starts for the likes of Brabham, BRM, and Surtees in 1976 and 1977.

He then returned to Australia and debuted at Mount Panorama, going on to win The Great Race a total of six times. Three of those wins came for the famous Holden Dealer Team, the other three coming for his own Castrol Perkins Racing squad.

Perkins retired from driving in 2003, but kept running his team until the end of the 2008 Supercars season. He then leased his two Racing Entitlement Contracts to Kelly Racing, the franchises ultimately bought by the Kellys at the start of 2013.

His outback discovery is in some ways reminiscent of the world's oldest message in a bottle discovered by a party including Daniel Ricciardo's parent, although in this case it was a pre-prepared mission rather than a lucky find.

According to Perkins, that's what makes the discovery so special, even compared to winning Bathurst.

"I may have won Bathurst but lots of other guys have won Bathurst," he told 7.30.

"We found this gear and not too many guys find gear like this. We didn't stumble across it. We were looking for it.

"The four-and-a-half days on the quad bike paid off based on enthusiasm, homework and a can-do attitude, which I'm proud of."

The artefacts have been given to the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs.

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