Nick Percat and co-driver Fabian Coulthard turned the tables on a difficult start to the endurance campaign with strong race pace at the Bathurst 1000 to secure good points at the showpiece Supercars weekend.
Nick, a 2011 Bathurst winner, teamed up with two-time Bathurst podium-getter Fabian for the first time to tackle Mount Panorama, but their NTI Mobil 1 Mustang rolled out of pit lane for first practice out of its set-up window, having been held back with pace problems at the preceding Sandown 500.
The team chipped away at the deficit over the course of the weekend, and while qualifying yielded only 23rd on the grid, the work paid dividends on race day, when the car came alive.
The Great Race got underway in cool conditions despite clear skies and brilliant sunshine. Nick took the start and put in a blinder, making up six places in the first four laps to give his and Fabian’s race some forward momentum.
Nick was among the first drivers to stop, on lap 14, committing to an alternative strategy to teammates Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth, ensuring he and Fabian could run their own race without the risk of double stacking in the pit lane.
The tactic appeared to be paying off when car 2 gained an extra place by the end of the second stint, but Nick and Fabian were forced to skip the opportunity for a cheap third stop with most of the rest of the field behind the lap-39 safety car, which came out of sequence for tyres and fuel.
Nick and Fabian were put on some long stints to try to capitalise on any attrition in the pack ahead instead, and the race turned into an afternoon of pace management to balance tyre and fuel consumption. The field settled into a rhythm a few seconds off the ultimate potential of the Gen3 cars rather than delivering the sprinting finishes Bathurst had become used to in recent years.
But the hoped-for interruptions that might have opened a window to leap forward never materialised. Despite three safety cars in the first half of the race, drivers were on their best behaviour to the flag.
It meant 14th became the ceiling for Nick and Fabian, a commendable nine-place gain from their grid spot and a good turnaround from the difficulties of the Bathurst prologue at Sandown.
“To come home cleanly in P14 was a great result today. We didn’t roll out the truck how we wanted, and the whole team dug so deep to get a result for the two cars. We changed every single nut and bolt across the two cars to get a good result and some speed in the race.
“The team executed the race well. We made no mistakes and maximised what we had. I think if we had had a late safety car, we could have had a better result.
“It was great having Fabs share the car with me. He was amazing all weekend and is the ultimate professional.
“I’m excited to get back on the streets of the Gold Coast in a few weeks time.”
2023 Supercars Championship round 10: Bathurst 1000
Practice 1: 20th — 2:07.869
\Practice 2: 14th — 2:07.228 (Fabian Coulthard only)
Practice 3: 21st — 2:06.827 (car shared with Fabian Coulthard)
Practice 4: 23rd — 2:06.680
Practice 5: 15th — 2:07.614 (Fabian Coulthard only)
Practice 6: 20th — 2:08.267 (car shared with Fabian Coulthard)
Qualifying: 23rd — 2:06.020
Race 23: (161 laps) — started 23rd, finished 14th
Championship: 20th (1017 points).
Next round: Gold Coast 500, Surfers Paradise Street Circuit (27–29 October)
Best individual finish: 6th (2015 and 2018).
Last year’s results: 10th and DNF.