Nick Percat has rescued strong Sunday points at Surfers Paradise despite reliability gremlins hampering his run on the Gold Coast.
Nick was immediately on the pace rolling out for Friday practice. His Mobil 1 NTI Ford Mustang was thriving in the green and slippery conditions of drizzly south-east Queensland, and P7 and P11 at the end of each half-hour session had him eyeing a berth in the weekend’s top-10 shootouts.
But warmer and sunnier weather on Saturday saw track conditions move away from the Walkinshaw Andretti United machine by the first qualifying session. Making matters worse was slow traffic on Nick’s final flying lap, knocking him out 14th and a painfully narrow 0.101 seconds adrift of the cut- off.
Despite being upwardly mobile in the first stint, he was among the last to make the two pit stops required to get to the end of the 250-kilometre race, taking tyres and fuel on laps 27 and 59. He was ejected from his final stop in 21st, but in a processional race he could pick off only three places before the chequered flag fell.
Sunday was warmer again, and Nick qualified 15th after having to abort his fastest lap of the session in a chaotic and damage-strewn 15 minutes.
His eyes were forward for the final race of the weekend, but a first-lap safety car limited his chances to pick up places in the opening phase of the afternoon, with drivers subsequently on their best behaviour following the restart.
A similar strategy to Saturday, comprising stops on laps 29 and 58, dropped Nick to 20th with 26 laps to run, and his odds of making progress were long after his car developed a braking problem in the final stint.
However, a late safety car bunched the field with seven laps to go, and the resumption lap 82 of 85 gave him a chance to make some late gains.
He rose to 15th at the flag, but a tidy end to the race allowed him to capitalise on a series of track limits infringements slapped on drivers ahead of him, promoting him 12th in the final classification, his best finish since Sunday in Tailem Bend.
“It was a tough weekend for both cars. We showed really good promise early in the weekend on Friday, when the track was nice and green. It seemed to suit our cars a little bit better.
“But it didn’t quite transpire come Saturday and Sunday, which is disappointing. We had a few little issues that we had to manage during the Sunday race too, so to come away P12 with what we had going on was probably not a bad result.
“My second-last race with the team is in the books. We’ve got one more together in Adelaide. Hopefully we can tune these cars up and finish big in front of my home crowd at the Adelaide 500 for a great farewell to the team.”
2023 Supercars Championship round 11: Gold Coast 500
Race 25: (85 laps) — started 14th, finished 18th.
Race 26: (85 laps) — started 15th, finished 12th.
Championship: 20th (1137 points).
Next round: Adelaide 500, Adelaide Parklands Circuit (23–26 November)
Best individual finish: 1st (2016).
Last year’s results: 2nd and 12th.