Two years on from publicly backing good friend Nick Percat as deserving of a Supercars drive in a time of strife, Tim Slade welcomes his former Walkinshaw teammate to Brad Jones Racing for 2017.
The South Australian drivers are good mates and tough competitors on track, and will be teammates again next year after BJR’s announcement yesterday confirming the 2011 Bathurst winner’s home, replacing Supercars stalwart Jason Bright.
At the end of the 2014 season, Percat’s place on the Supercars grid was in doubt after licence holder James Rosenberg failed to enter the REC underpinning Percat’s entry for 2015. The racer was offered a last minute lifeline at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, announced just days before Christmas, and has since delivered the team’s first win and Bathurst podium.
Slade looks forward to racing alongside his mate again and praised the BJR environment, after earning his first Supercars race wins earlier this year at Winton.
“Nick and I get along well so that’s not an issue as far as having to form a relationship with a new teammate or anything like that,” Slade told supercars.com.
“I think he’s going to be a good fit. Really for me, not much is going to change because I get along well with Brighty and get along well with Nick, so from that point of view it’ll be a fairly smooth transition I’d imagine.”
While Slade’s was a heartfelt speech back in 2014 at the final event of the season, he reiterated that most drivers on the grid deserved their place in the cut-throat competitive environment of Supercars. This year’s season start was the closest ever with 10 different winners in the first 13 races, including Percat’s shock first round victory at the Clipsal 500.
“He’s definitely a fast guy, he’s proven himself … everything turned the way it did at the end of ‘14 and there wasn’t really any other option but join LDM,” Slade said.
“He has had some good results there along the way but not the consistency because of the team and where it’s at.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for him to come here and he’ll fit in well.”
After a tough two years at Walkinshaw Racing, Slade has been a contender in the Freightliner Commodore, though not all promise has paid off in results. He and Ash Walsh looked on for a breakthrough at Bathurst before a bungled pit stop hindered them early in the 161-lap marathon, though they fought back to seventh.
The 31-year old is loving life with BJR.
“It’s awesome, it’s everything I thought it would be. Everyone here – and it starts from the top – is just very genuine.
“There’s no egos, everyone just gets on with it.
“They genuinely love what they do, get along with each other really well and as a driver you get all the support and backing you need to get the most out of yourself so as far as the team is concerned.”
The last two tracks on the calendar may not have been standouts for BJR in the recent past, but Slade is hopeful of remaining in the top 10 cars come the end of the season. He currently sits eighth in the order.
“Like I said at the start of the year, I’ve never been one to set super specific goals but I definitely want to be back inside the top 10 in the championship and getting consistent top 10 results,” he said.
“I guess we’ve carried on the BJR strengths and weaknesses this year, as far as car speed is concerned at different circuits. We’ve just come off the biggest bogey track for the team and I feel as though we probably have come to understand those weaknesses a little bit more over the weekend.
“It’s definitely something we’re working hard towards for the start of next year, making those weaknesses not as weak and keeping your strengths.”