BIG GAINS IN TASSIE DESPITE MILESTONE HEARTBREAK
Nick Percat brought home two top-10 finishes before an unusual technical issue cruelled his 300th race start in a chilly Launceston for the Tasmania SuperSprint.
It was just four degrees when the Mobil 1 NTI Racing car rolled out for practice on Saturday morning. The frigid conditions meant pace was difficult to come by, and Nick ended the two sessions 16th and 19th.
Times improved as morning turned to afternoon and the sun warmed the track for qualifying, though neither Walkinshaw Andretti United car had top-10 pace.
But Nick’s 13th place on the grid was no impediment to a strong result.
He was up to ninth by the third lap and ran deep into the race from there, not stopping until lap 25.
The overcut worked a treat, giving him the tyre life to make some incisive passing late in the afternoon from 15th in the pack to take the flag a punchy ninth.
Sunday dawned, and despite the strong Sunday result, again the WAU cars struggled for single-lap pace.
Nick lined up 16th for the first of two Sunday races, and another poised launch got him up to 13th for the opening phase of the race. His sole stop came on lap 21, dropping him to 18th, but again he was able to get his elbows out to fight back up to 10th and another solid points haul.
But the final race of the weekend — and Nick’s 300th Supercars start — wasn’t destined to end on such a high note.
Despite another aggressive launch, a loose brake pedal forced him into an early stop on safety grounds, which dropped him to the back of the field. He showed very competitive pace through to the end of the race, but he was powerless to finish higher than a disappointed 23rd.
It was a bitter finale, but two good results from two long-awaited clean swings at a race proved Nick is back on the right track in the early days of Gen3.
“A good weekend. We moved forward — as in car 2 was faster, which is good — and were much more competitive, so it was a nice weekend to have no real reliability issues and qualify well and really work well as a team.
“We got two top tens, but in the last race we had — would you believe it! — the brake pad, as in the brake pad off the pedal, come loose, which is something I don't think I’ve ever heard of in motorsport, so I was a bit unlucky there in my 300th race.
“The positive from that race is we probably had the fifth-fastest car with the oldest tyres, so car 2 was motoring along quite well, just obviously way down the order and out of position.
“I can't wait to get to Darwin, a track that I’ve traditionally gone well at. I’ve had many podiums there and actually love the place, so I’m keen to get there and get some big results for the Mobil 1 NTI Racing car and get it all back on track as it should be.”
2023 Supercars Championship round 4: Tasmania SuperSprint
Race 10: (42 laps): started 13th, finished ninth.
Race 11: (42 laps): started 16th, finished 10th.
Race 12: (42 laps): started 14th, finished 23rd.
Championship: 24th (361 points).
Next round: Darwin Triple Crown, Hidden Valley Raceway (17–18 May)
Best individual finish: second place (race 3, 2020).
Last year’s results: 14th, 10th and 10th.