Percat on a roll

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars

Rookie Nick Percat says a "big look" at themselves has been the key reason he and HHA Racing have lifted their fortunes dramatically in the last two V8 Supercars events.

Percat has qualified his HHAHolden Commodore VF in the top 10 in five of the last six Championship races, a record only bettered by Championship leader Jamie Whincup in his Red Bull Racing Commodore.

The Adelaide-born driver has also scored the sixth-most points across the Townsville and Queensland Raceway events, with five top 10 finishes led by a fourth in Race 20.

And while not getting carried away, the 25-year old is confident he and his crew can keep focussed and can keep the roll going at this weekend's Sydney Motorsport 400.

"If I can maintain something in the top 10, that would be exactly what we want at this stage of the year and where I'm at," he told v8supercars.com.au.

"I'm pretty realistic, I know I'm not going to get two top 10 results, come out and go 'oh look at me I'm now going to be on the podium'. A podium for us would be like a race win."

The South Australian's reward for his improved form has been a climb from 21st to 18th in the Championship, albeit only 91 points behind 12th placed factory Nissan driver Michael Caruso.

The results are remarkable because they follow straight on from Percat's poorest outing of the year in Darwin, where he qualified 24-20-15 and finished 23-19-23.

"I had a big look at myself, I know (my engineers) Alex (Somerset) and Ty (Anderson) did the same thing, all my guys took it pretty hard that we were absolutely disgraceful at Darwin," Percat said.

"The two mechanics, Glen (Fisher) and Brad (Johnson), probably put in more than they ever had even though the car was fine. There was nothing wrong with it. They lifted to another level of preparation.

"Alex and Ty dug deep into the data to find what I was missing. I did the same with myself and with the driving of the car ... we learned really quickly and it really highlighted the area that I needed to improve the way I drove the car, especially on the soft tyre.

"I've found a few ways in the car to not put so much energy into the tyre. There's only two ways you can do that; the way into the corner and the way off it. So I massage both those areas and that's what really for me has made a big difference."

Percat's learnings will be particularly relevant at SMP where the 200km mini marathon Race 28 on Sunday will employ soft as well as hard Dunlop tyres. Saturday's two 100km races will be on hard tyres.

It won't only be his improved tyre management that could aid Percat's results at SMP. As the V8 Supercars Championship has not raced at the Eastern Creek venue since 2012, this will be the first outing for the New Generation race car, apart from the mandatory pre-season tests in 2013 when they were brand new and 2014 when it rained.

Percat raced and won here in 2013 in the Porsche 911 Carrera Cup and also won at the circuit in his Formula Ford days in 2008.

The 911 experience could be crucial because there are similarities in pace between the Porsche and the V8 Supercar and the limited practice time at this event.

"I know my way around there, I know the track grip levels and that kind of thing. I have a bit of a reference from when I did the Porsche to now in the V8," he said. "I've been there in a sedan and a car that does very similar lap times to a V8 Supercar at Eastern Creek, so I think it'll be good.

"It's going to be quite interesting to see what happens there because it's probably more of a level playing field and a lot of the teams don't have any fantastic data," he added.

Apart from his recent form giving him a confidence boost, Percat looks back with fondness on his 2013 Porsche win at the circuit, which came after a charge back through the field, passing "about 12 cars" on the way to the win.

"I think Eastern Creek does have a few points where you can pass, so it should be good racing. I've always enjoyed Eastern Creek for some reason. I was really quick there in a Formula Ford, quick in a Porsche. So I'm just hoping it will keep going that way!"

Percat is not the traditional V8 Supercars rookie. He has had a long term Walkinshaw Racing contract and won the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with Garth Tander in a HRT Commodore in 2011.

He raced wheel-to-wheel with Chaz Mostert, Scott McLaughlin and Scott Pye in a classic 2012 Dunlop Series, but while they made it into the main game in 2013 he had to wait until this year and the re-expansion of Walkinshaw Racing to four cars.

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter