Percat revels in added responsibility

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/06/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

Boosted by a sensational sixth place in Darwin last Sunday, emerging star Nick Percat says he is revelling in the increased responsibility handed to him this year at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport.

Percat, 26, signed a two year deal late in 2014 with LDM after learning he would be out of a drive at Walkinshaw Racing this year due to a shortfall in sponsorship and the withdrawal of licence holder James Rosenberg.

Percat had spent eight years in the Walkinshaw system, winning the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 with Garth Tander in a Holden Racing Team Commodore as a rookie in 2011.

He joined the V8 Supercars Championship full-time last year, managing podiums at Bathurst and Sydney Motorsport Park and 12th place in the Championship.

He was clearly unhappy about the late decision to drop him for 2015 and the option of taking over from the retiring Russell Ingall at LDM was his only real choice if he wanted to stay in the Championship full-time.

The move from Walkinshaw - where he could have stayed as an endurance co-driver - to struggling LDM was not seen universally as the right career move.

But Percat's arrival has coincided with a complete overhaul of LDM led by former Stone Brothers Racing championship-winning crew chief Barry Hay, and last Sunday's strong result makes it four top 10s from the last seven starts for the Repair Management Australia Holden Commodore VF.

In the 200km race at Hidden Valley Percat was the third Commodore home and ahead of all the factory-backed cars from both Red Bull Racing Australia and HRT. He runs 15th in the Championship, five spots ahead of Lee Holdsworth in his old Walkinshaw Racing car.

"It's a massive result and everyone can see it's a big step forward from inside the garage," Percat told v8supercars.com.au. "It gives you a nice feeling that you are part of that and everyone is pushing in the same direction.

"It's not just a fluke that we keep popping up in the 10, so it is really encouraging for everyone. We are just chipping away, doing our thing and it is going alright."

Percat said the differences between the factory-backed Walkinshaw organisation and the small LDM outfit were substantial, but had been positive for him.

"It is a lot different," Percat confirmed. "Last year my views on the way I thought we could go with the car probably didn't get listened to that much. And that's fair, I was in my first year of V8 Supercars as a main driver and the philosophy is already set there.

"At Lucas' team we run customer Triple Eight Race Engineering cars, but it's not like we are on the current type of set-up. We do our own thing ... It is purely all our own stuff and the feeling I get from the car and the way myself and the engineer (Brendan Hogan) and Barry want to go with it is purely our own direction.

"It is a lot different because if I want something changed then it just gets changed and that could be from what steering wheel we use to anything. It's pretty cool and I am enjoying it."

Percat revealed he and Hay had developed their vision for the team over the Christmas break. He says an improved culture has been key.

https://twitter.com/NickPercat/status/613266914530299904

"Everyone has to want to come to work, everyone has to want to put in the hours and everyone has to have a lot of pride in their work," Percat explained.

"At the test day (in February) - and I have said this to the team - the car looked like a poorly run Kumho Series car because the panel gaps were terrible and it wasn't reliable. There was probably no pride in the work at that stage.

"I know everyone was probably under the pump at our place, but all the one per centers have to be crossed off... It looks like a fully-fledged car now and the results have turned, so we belong there.

"When you get that feeling in the team that it looks better, it feels better and it should be better. That's probably the biggest thing, it's not that the set-up has drastically changed, we have just found a sweet spot for me in the car and it's probably the vibe of the team is lifting and it brings a positivity and results with it."

The team is looking for a further lift in performance now that Percat's teammate Tim Blanchard has a refurbished car under him that will enable them to better share data. Qualifying pace is where a gain obviously needs to be made, as Percat's eighth fastest time last Sunday was LDM's first top 10 grid spot all year.

"We are working on that, but being a small team we don't have three or four cars to try different tyre pressures, cambers and spring rates before qualifying.

"We are kind of doing it all ourselves and I think what we did to the car for Sunday definitely lit it up a little bit better.

"We only got a couple of tenths gain, whereas the likes of (Darwin race winner) David Reynolds (The Bottle-O Ford Falcon FG X) got nearly half a second. So we are still off, but it is definitely an improvement."

Percat has raced forward from his qualifying position in every race this season bar one - the Saturday Darwin sprint when he was caught in an accident with Andre Heimgartner, Will Davison, Jamie Whincup and Lee Holdsworth.

The 26-year old was emotional in the post-race interview, as he worked with his crew to fix his damaged car, calling out the more experienced drivers in the pack to up their game. He later clarified his comments were not aimed specifically at Whincup and his role in the accident. The stewards deemed no breach of the rules from anyone involved.

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