Nick Percat helped his Walkinshaw Andretti United team take a step forward at the Townsville 500 but lacked the opportunity to bring home some big results for himself.
The opening day of practice at the Reid Park Street Circuit comprised exploratory twin half-hour practice sessions to adjust the new Gen3 machines to the characteristics of Townsville’s demanding roads. WAU also had the added task of analysing the parity changes made to the Mustang by Supercars organisers during the week.
By the evening Nick had finished 15th and 19th on the time sheets ahead of the first race day in tropical north Queensland.
A tight qualifying session on Saturday morning put him just 0.431 short of the shootout and 20th on the grid.
He made up four positions off the line but was never destined to rise any higher. He was collected by Mark Winterbottom at the second tun on lap 8, spinning him around and triggering a subsequent collision with Jack Smith.
The fracas caused front-end damage to his Mobil 1 NTI Mustang and forced him to limp to the chequered flag at the back of the pack, the only positive being that Nick was able to keep some fresh tyres in reserve for Sunday.
His cache of Dunlop rubber came in useful for the final 250 kilometres the following afternoon after some set-up swings failed to deliver a step forward in qualifying pace, putting Nick 22nd on the grid.
A punchy start on softs got car 2 up four places after one lap and six place after four laps, and from there he was able to deploy some of his fresh rubber to consolidate his gains at the end of a weekend defined by high tyre wear around the temporary street track.
Nick executed a strong three-stop strategy to rise nine positions and take the chequered flag in 13th place, including a pass on pole-getter Cameron Waters four laps from the finish, bringing an eventful weekend to a close.
“Townsville was an up-and-down weekend.
“On Saturday getting turned around by Frosty and then picking a bit of damage on the car ruined the race, so it was just about survival to get points for the team.
“Sunday was a much better day. Qualifying didn’t go so well. We were trying some development set- ups and trying to learn so we can move forward as a team; it didn’t quite work on my car but worked well on Chaz (Mostert)’s.
“But then in the race I managed to go from 22nd to 13th, which was really good. The car was quite good to drive.
“I had a really good start — I made up a lot of positions at the start — and then just ticked off a few cars after each stop. I had some really good battles along the way, and we tried to look after the tyres as best I could.
“Overall, as a team it was obviously great for Chaz to get the podium Saturday and disappointing we didn’t get a result Sunday, but I think as a team we’ve made a step forward in the set-up of the cars, and I’m looking forward to the next round.”
2023 Supercars Championship round 6: Townsville 500
Race 16: (88 laps): started 20th, finished 24th.
Race 17: (88 laps): started 22nd, finished 13th.
Championship: 23rd (500 points).
Next round: Sydney SuperNight, Sydney Motorsport Park (28–30 July)
Best individual finish: victory (twice in 2020).
Last year’s results: sixth and 23rd.