Two-time Bathurst winner and 2005 champ Russell Ingall has defended Clipsal 500 winner Nick Percat after suggestions the driver lucked into Sunday’s race victory.
Percat and his developing Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team made a clever call on strategy that won the unusual race, fought in torrential conditions with Safety Car interventions and a red flag.
LDM engineer Chris Stuckey was mindful of the 140 litre minimum fuel drop, which was ultimately what hurt other competitors when they made late pit stops, or decided to cop the 60-second post-race penalty on the chin.
Not only did a small squad outsmart the pit lane heavyweights, Percat’s ability to be clean but fast in the conditions proved just how promising his future is in V8 Supercars.
“There’s been a few keyboard warriors [who] gave you a little bit of grief saying [you] jagged the race. You didn’t,” Ingall told the 27-year old on the Inside Supercars panel last night.
“You were genuinely fast in that race. We’ve got to remember – I was looking at some of the lap times at the end of the race and you were just as quick as [Craig] Lowndes and he was the man in the wet. So you had speed.”
Percat won the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in 2011 as co-driver to Garth Tander at the Holden Racing Team. It took until 2014 for him to lock in a full-time drive with the Walkinshaw Racing team, but that only lasted one season before LDM threw him a lifeline to stay on the grid.
He hasn’t even completed a whole season with the squad after a dangerous blood infection sidelined him for the last two events of 2015, but now, on home soil, he’s achieved the ultimate.
“To be honest it’s a credit to my engineer,” Percat said on the Inside Supercars panel.
“We only have Chris Stuckey, my engineer. Barry Hay is engineering Andre, but … Barry is team manger [and doing] and all this other stuff.
“So it probably came down to the fact that we only had Chris to make the decision, we didn’t have input from anywhere else. He said ‘that’s the way I’m reading the rules and that’s what we’ve got to do’.”
The SP Tools backed Commodore had dramas on Saturday with a battery failure and the bonnet flying open on the warm up lap, but the team rectified it for Sunday and had a rocket in the wet.
“At the start of the race it was crazy, I was happily just sitting back a bit, the wiper wasn’t working that well,” Percat said.
“Once it dried out the car really came alive and knew as soon as we put the wets back on we knew it’d be super fast.”
For the South Australian, winning his first solo race at home was an incredible feeing.
“It was an unbelievable day obviously, to win in front of your home crowd,” he said.
“To be honest, the best thing was driving down pit lane and seeing the team and the smile on Lucas’s face – I haven’t seen a smile so bright for a few years so it was pretty cool.”