cover car, the 1995 Tooheys 1000-winning Commodore of Larry Perkins/Russell Ingall, has another, quirkier, claim-to-fame. It also served as the Cougarmobile.
Now, the term ‘Cougar’ has taken on new meaning over the last decade or so, but back in 1997 it was the catchy term applied to the all- female driving team backed by Castrol.
News of an all-girl team in V8 Supercars was met with plenty of scepticism from some in pitlane – not unlike the vibe surrounding the Renee Gracie and Simona de Silvestro entry this year. However, the Cougars quickly proved to be a marketing masterstroke.
The Castrol Cougars was led by Melinda Price and Kerryn Brewer with netballer Michelle Fielke and Channel 9 TV host Kim Watkins also part of the four-girl squad – though only Price and Brewer ended up doing any racing. Watkins’ involvement in the launch and training was all about gaining air-time from her employer.
A major change to the 1995 Bathurst winner was under the bonnet, with the Perkins-produced Chevrolet engine replaced with the old Holden 308 motor (“we got what we were given and we were grateful,” says Price today!) and a new ‘Cougar’ livery, complete with red, green and black claw marks added.
Brewer was first to race for the team at Lakeside’s 1997 ATCC round and later at Mallala, while Price took over in Perth and ran at Oran Park before they paired up for the enduros. At Sandown they finishing 17th and salvaged a fine 12th place Bathurst, given that they started 41st after Price crashed in the lead-up to the race.
While it indeed was a Perkins team car run by Perkins Engineering with Castrol backing, the Cougars car was classified as a privateer entry given its Holden engine and non-use of the same Dunlop rubber as used on the Level 1 cars of Perkins and Ingall.
The Cougars program returned in 1998 with a partial schedule of ATCC rounds and another endurance assault.
They finished 14th at Sandown and combined to improve on their previous result at Bathurst and record an 11th place.
As an aside, Larry Perkins himself became a Castrol Cougar too in October 1998 – albeit only for a weekend!
Not wanting to risk his new VT Commodore on the concrete walls of the non-championship Gold Coast Indy event in the lead-up to Bathurst (which was in November that year), Larry took over the Cougar-liveried car to get him through the weekend. The program came to an end at the conclusion of ’98.