Nick Percat battled mechanical gremlins and strategy missteps on his way to a best finish of 13th at a difficult Perth SuperSprint.
The Mobil 1 NTI Racing driver arrived at Wanneroo Raceway with his car freshly rebuilt following his fire at the Australian Grand Prix and determined to hit reset on his season.
But things got off on the wrong foot in Saturday’s race despite a decent qualifying performance and a strong first lap. Nick led Walkinshaw Andretti United teammate Chaz Mostert to 14th and 15th on the grid, and he rose one place off the line to set his eyes forwards for a strong points finish. But an attempt to undercut his way ahead of the midfield with a pit stop on lap 7 backfired. Despite the chance to run in clear air, Nick was no match for rivals equipped with fresher rubber from later stops in the race’s closing stages, and he sunk to 17th at the flag.
Overnight work on the car made for sweeter handling on Sunday, but new problems emerged ahead of qualifying, with car 2 developing a power steering issue ahead of the day’s dual qualifying sessions. It was all he could do start 16th for race 8, but a gutsy flying lap for race 9 put him a remarkable 10th on the grid for the weekend’s final race.
But the twin 42-lap, 100-kilometre races were more demanding challenges given his car issues. He struggled to 19th in the day’s first race despite another strong launch off the line that saw him gain a place, and he brought the car home 13th for the final event of the weekend after running as high as fourth to salvage decent points on what had turned into another technically trying weekend for the 34-year-old.
“It was a bit of a weekend of what-ifs, we had good speed on car 2 — we actually had decent race pace — but just had an unfortunate run of a few little mechanical gremlins, which is happening a bit in Gen3. Overall it was good to qualify well for the last race on Sunday even without power steering. In the last race I got to have some good battles, and it was nice to be running towards the front again. From my side it’s just a bit frustrating we haven’t been able to show the speed this year yet just due to little gremlins, which is always going to happen with a new car. Hopefully that’s them all out of the car for car 2 and we can start getting some good results for the team and get some trophies and turn the year around as soon as we can. The weekend left him 25th in the title standings on 229 points after three rounds and nine races ahead of the next race in Tasmania. Symmons Plains Raceway has historically offered Nick some decent returns. He recorded a top-10 finish at last year’s event on a difficult weekend for the team, just shy of his career-best finish of seventh in 2019. I’m keen to get to Tasmania and to a track that we traditionally go pretty well at. I definitely think we’re heading in the right direction with set-up and the way we're going about the Gen3 car.”
2023 Supercars Championship Round 3: Perth SuperSprint
Race 7: (42 laps): started 14th, finished 17th
Race 8: (42 laps): started 16th, finished 19th
Race 9: (42 laps): started 10th, finished 13th Championship: 25th (229 points)
Next round: Tasmania SuperSprint, Symmons Plains Raceway (19–21 May)