Brothers in Arms
- By Bruce Newton
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Paul Dumbrell's dramatic call-up to drive the Repair Management Australia Holden Commodore for his brother's team came after Nick Percat collapsed and was rushed back to hospital only minutes before Saturday morning practice at the WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint was due to commence.
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team manager Barry Hay said Percat, who has been in Knox Private Hospital this week because of an infected foot, only started to complain about feeling unwell around 45 minutes prior to the session.
"Nick was good last night after getting out of the car, he was still good this morning at breakfast but coming up to the session he didn't feel so good and contacted the V8 doctor," Hay explained.
"Then he walked through here and was a bit dazed and not quite with it. So I followed him into the truck and he collapsed, freezing cold and shaking.
"He is seriously, seriously ill. They pumped antibiotics into him in the medical centre and now he's headed back to hospital."
Hay confirmed that LDM enduro co-driver Karl Reindler was also on standby to replace Percat, but Paul Dumbrell was asked to step in because of his extensive recent experience in the championship.
While Dumbrell retired from full-time competition at the end of the 2011 season, he has raced with Jamie Whincup in Red Bull Holden Commodore VF ever since. He also has maintained race fitness in the Dunlop development series. In fact, his racing gear was in the RBRA team transporter this weekend for him to collect. LDM also runs Triple Eight-built Commodores similar to the one Dumbrell drives for Red Bull.
"PD is pretty accredited and had a very good year in the car so there is no doubt what kind of driver he is," said Hay. "It's good because he has driven current Triple Eight cars and he can get into one of our cars as a genuine comparison from up there to down there.
"There is nothing wrong with Karl, but he has gone into our car (for the Pirtek Enduro Cup) and back out. He would have done a good job I have no doubt about that. But looking at the bigger picture to try and move forward it makes sense to get PD to drive the car."
Dumbrell is the third substitute driver this weekend, with Dean Canto replacing Ash Walsh at Erebus and Chris Pither taking over from Andre Heimgartner at Super Black.
Hay suggested Percat may not run at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 because of the seriousness of his illness.
"The bigger picture is Nick's health. It's not like a rib or a wrist injury like James Courtney or Chaz Mostert and you can sort of work through it. This could be terminal if it is not handled properly."
In quotes supplied by the team, Percat explained the dramatic morning from his perspective:
"About 45 minutes before practice three I was feeling half alright in the truck and then said to our team's physio that I felt quite sick.
"My glands had swollen back up, my temperature spiked and I was feeling quite light headed and I nearly hit the deck.
"I got checked out at the medical centre and now I'm off to hospital for another course of antibiotics through a drip.
"It's pretty cool to have Paul Dumbrell take over. I didn't think the car would be going out in practice three.
"He's an ultra professional and he's good enough to be in the main series, so I'll he'll do an awesome job.
"For Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport it will be helpful as well because he's raced with Jamie [Whincup] in a current Triple Eight car. Our car is a couple of steps behind that, so it will be good to understand where our Commodore is at and see how Paul goes."
Paul Dumbrell, who had some preliminary discussions about taking over the drive for the team owned by his brother Lucas earlier in the week, said he was only expecting spectate today.
He was en-route to the circuit when Holden motorsport boss Simon McNamara rang him to ask him if he could make it in time to take over the drive.
"I got the call from Simon and he said practice starts in 18 minutes. I checked my GPS and it said I was 14 minutes form the circuit, so I put my Maccas coffee down and my bacon and egg roll and just got here in time."
Dumbrell set 24th fastest time in the session running on old tyres and simply trying to acclimatise himself to the car and track. He will have his first crack on green rubber in qualifying for today's two 60km races.
"Obviously Nick and I are a bit different in size so there is a bit of work to do to get me comfortable for the races.
"I haven't driven here for four years ... so there is a bit more work to do to get my head around this track. It would have been nice if this was Sandown, Bathurst or the Gold Coast where I have done a few more miles but hey that's just how it is."
Dumbrell said it was only just sinking in that he was driving for his brother and what a special moment it was.
"It has been lost on me for the last half an hour or so. Lucas' team has taken a big step forward this year and their competitiveness and professionalism really stands out. Hopefully I can do it justice.
"Nick has done a good job all year so it's going to be tough to be anywhere near where he is. But we will plod away all weekend and try and keep it clean otherwise Lucas will send me an invoice."
Lucas Dumbrell said he was happy to have his brother in his car, despite the unhappy circumstances.
"Nick started to feel unwell and he made the call at 10:30 that he didn't feel up to racing, and by chance Paul was on his way to Phillip Island to support Triple Eight, and I thought why not put him in the car - what did I have to lose?
"It was purely because the opportunity came up and it was too good to pass on. We've already spoken to Karl about doing the enduros next year, and if Paul wasn't on his way down here then Karl would have been in the car.
"Realistically I don't think Paul would ever do enduros for me, so it was the only opportunity to have him drive for me.
"Its such a unique and special opportunity to have my brother race for me before he hangs up the helmet."