Mark Larkham started racing in Formula Ford. In 1994 Mark started a V8 Supercar team and in 1999 took pole position at Bathurst with the fastest qualifying lap ever. Larkham retired from full-time competition at the end of 2003 but continued as team owner.
Born in Benalla in country Victoria , Mark Larkham grew up in Griffith NSW, with a passion and appreciation of the Australian Touring Car Championship. As a refrigeration mechanic in a country town, Mark's life was very removed from the fast and furious world of car racing and although he harboured a strong desire to compete, it seemed that he was "Too far in the bush for racing to ever be a reality".
With little available funding to go racing Mark soon tired of rallying around the paddocks in whatever vehicle he could find, so in 1987 he sold all of his possessions including 2 very well used motorbikes and jumped in head first purchasing a Formula Ford race car. In 1988 Mark was 5th in the Australian Formula Ford Championship and in 1989 went on to win the NSW Coca-Cola series and then the national Australian Formula Ford Championship taking multiple lap records and pole positions along the way.
During 1994 Mark built up an all new V8 Supercar team. In a pursuit of excellence in engineering standards, the team produced a car which challenged the entire industry to re-think the way it was doing things. The car proved to be "over engineered" and was unfortunately not able to tolerate the huge forces created by modern V8 Supercar standards and proved unreliable.
Larkham concedes today that the team tried to achieved too much too soon with little practical knowledge of what was required. He competed in every race over the following 2 seasons but was dogged by bad luck and component failures. From that point on, through the use of a more conventional approach, things began to improve. In 1997 he finished 3rd in the Primus 1000 Classic at Bathurst. In 1998 Mark dominated the Honda Indy races on the Gold Coast scoring his first V8 Supercar victory.
The highlight of 1999 was taking pole position at Bathurst with the fastest qualifying lap ever. Year 2000 was an eventful year complete with 1 race win and 22 top ten finishes, 17 of which were in the top 6, and who could forget the big crash and fireball at Oran Park.
This happened when seconds after the start of the final heat, Paul Morris rammed into the back of Larry Perkins' stalled Commodore. Perkins got moving again quickly but Morris was stranded in the middle of the track and could only watch and hope that everyone behind him was quick enough to react.
Larkham, however, was only inches behind Steven Ellery's Falcon when he suddenly darted to the right leaving Larkham nowhere to go but straight into the back of Morris' car at close to 150km/h.
Morris was sent spinning 40 metres down the circuit while Larkham's Falcon burst into a ball of flames. With a river of fuel joining the two cars, it was mere seconds before Morris' car was engulfed in flames as well.
Amazingly both drivers managed to escape under their own steam. They were taken to nearby Liverpool Hospital where Larkham was treated for severe whiplash and bruising while Morris had three broken vertebrae in his lower back.
In 2003 Larkham expanded the team with former Bathurst champion Jason Bargwanna joining him in the Orrcon Racing liveried LMS Falcons.
Larkham retired from full-time competition at the end of the year.
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