We want Nick to stay
- By Bruce Newton
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Unsettled Nick Percat is wanted at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport beyond 2016, even though the talented driver has talked publicly of his frustrations with the team and desire for a more competitive drive next season.
LDM team boss Barry Hay has sat down and talked with Percat since the 27-year old South Australian spoke out via supercars.com, delivering the message that his frustrations are understood and that the team will do all it can to improve performances and keep him onboard.
“From his point of view I can understand his frustration and if he wasn’t frustrated he probably wouldn’t be a very good competitor,” Hay said.
“Even the guys up the other end of pitlane who have got everything are never happy and that’s just because that is what they do, what they are supposed to do. They are never supposed to be happy and there is always supposed to be more and faster and better and whatever.
“So from that point of view it’s only normal for a driver to be frustrated, and then they get cranky and say a whole heap of stuff they normally wouldn’t and come across a bit silly. But it’s frustration, that’s all it is.”
It’s not only Percat’s undoubted speed that Hay wants to retain. He is also conscious that continuity is a key to any performance improvement the team might achieve. Percat is already the first full-time driver to stay at the team for more than a single season since it was established in 2010 and has established a good relationship with his engineer Chris Stuckey.
“It is all about keeping continuity and that is the secret of success,” Hay said. “You take Nick out and put another driver in then you are back to square one. It is all about losing that continuity.
“I know Holden is pretty keen to keep him with us and we are pretty keen. We have no dramas, we have no wish to get rid of him. We just want to try and let him do what he wants to do, and it’s frustrating when we let him down.”
Percat’s season started off brilliantly with victory in the rain-affected Sunday race at the Clipsal 500, but since then there have been a series of technical issues, including with the team’s Chevrolet 5.0-litre engines, which are being maintained by a new supplier in 2016.
Hay acknowledged that among a number of issues, but said the small team, which is owned by former racer Lucas Dumbrell, was working to rectify them.
“This year we have changed a few suppliers; engine suppliers and things like that. It’s just clearly not working for us at the moment. It’s just not working out.
“We are trying to organise some stuff that will come online maybe Townsville, and that should help us step up with some later model stuff to put in the car and finish the year strong. Like we did last year.
“We have also had a few key people leave – like our whole pit stop crew. As it turned out our only four people to leave out of the whole crew of 18 or 20 was our four wheel-change guys.”
The pit crew changes are more significant this year because the changes to the SuperSprint format have increased the number of mandatory pit stops.
Since the Clipsal 500 Percat has only once qualified inside the top 20 once and finished a race there three time. He runs 21st in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
Percat, who won the 2011 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with Garth Tander, was one of the four star graduates of the 2012 Dunlop development series, along with Scott McLaughlin, Chaz Mostert and Scott Pye. They are now all in strong drives, which adds to Percat’s frustration.
For reasons beyond his control, Percat lost his drive at Walkinshaw Racing in a restructure despite a highly successful debut in 2014. He moved to the small LDM operation, which runs on a tiny budget in comparison with the big teams, for the 2015 season.
Hay acknowledged the experience for Percat at LDM had been an eye-opener after growing up within the well funded Walkinshaw Racing structure.
“Obviously there are frustrations operating down at that end of pitlane. There are lots of challenges; everything from budgets to staff, to whatever. There are a lot of restrictions you would not normally have if you had the choice.
“Coming from HRT, where they pretty much have anything, to here there is a massive reality check.
“He arrived at our place not in the greatest frame of mind because of how he got there so that made it awkward. But to his credit he adjusted to that.”
Hay stressed it wasn’t just Percat who was disappointed by how the year had gone since the Clipsal 500 win.
“All the guys in my team are so young they had never won anything in Supercars before. So now they have a taste of it and they want more of it.
“So now every time we have a bad result they take it just as badly as the guys at the other end of pitlane.
“So it’s not just Nick who is frustrated with the situation.”