How young karters, MSR revived Percat's fight

25 Mar
'I couldn't be happier with the way Matt has been the whole time, the whole crew'
  • Nick Percat won thrilling Melbourne finale on Sunday

  • Percat held off Triple Eight duo to win first race since 2020

  • MSR recruit hailed his young karters, Matt Stone for revival

Melbourne winner Nick Percat has opened up on how his young go kart drivers and new boss Matt Stone have helped turn his Supercars career around.

Percat staved off Triple Eight duo Will Brown and Broc Feeney to win the Albert Park finale, marking his first Supercars win since Sydney 2020.

The victory continued Percat’s stunning return to form, with the MSR recruit now fourth in the championship, with six straight top 10 race finishes.

It’s a stark contrast to Percat’s ill-fated two-year stint at Walkinshaw Andretti United, where he scored 14 top 10 finishes in 62 starts.

Speaking after the race, Percat said his confidence under Stone, as his JND Racing karting proteges, were key to his quest in rediscovering his form.

“The last two years, I didn't want to come [to the track], basically,” he told the Schick Cool Down Lap podcast.

“You would find ways to get here as late as possible, and leave as early as possible… I couldn't be happier with the way Matt has been the whole time, the whole crew.

"I say it a lot, and it's not just a plug for the kart team, but those young kids would look at me and they'd see me at the track, and they could tell without even knowing me, that I wasn't happy.

"I don’t know if they were too scared to ask… where I'll be driving next year, because obviously they look up to me and go, ‘We really want Nick to be racing because it's really cool. He's our team boss.'

"When you have people asking you to drive a race car and you're considering saying no, you’re probably not the right head frame.”

Percat said he needed little more than 10 minutes with Stone last year to agree to terms on a deal, which has so far delivered a sparkling run of form.

“[Stone] was probably a fair way down the road [signing] with Scotty Pye or someone else. The moment I met him, I was literally in the workshop for 10 minutes. I was like, ‘Oh man, we've got to make this happen,’” Percat said.

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“Matt has been working my car this weekend when we've had niggling issues, you have Jimmy Stone building your uprights. That kind of stuff, it shows where they're at as an organisation.

“The old saying, good management’s to turn the pyramid upside down and be on the floor working with the troops. That's what they do, but they don't see themselves as management. So, it's pretty cool."

Percat had it all to do on Sunday, with Feeney and Brown throwing everything at the 2011 Bathurst winner, who claimed the lead after a clash between Chaz Mostert and Matt Payne.

However, the veteran used all 322 starts’ worth of experience to manage the race and deny Triple Eight a perfect six-from-six to start the season.

"I'm happy to battle anyone, you know. I've been very fortunate, I've raced since 2014 in Supercars,” he said.

“When you go toe to toe with Garth [Tander], JC [James Courtney], Frosty [Mark Winterbottom], SVG [Shane van Gisbergen], [Scott] McLaughlin, [Cam] Waters… you gotta be smart, and place your car where you want it.

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“My own method of defending was make them use their tyres. I didn't feel like I was using mine that hard, so I was happy for them to battle me.

"Because I thought, the moment he gets to me, he's going to lunge me, and I'm going to over and under him, and he's going to light up his rear tyre off the corner, and it's exactly how it played out.

"And then, that one little bit of wheel-spin for Broc put him on the defence, and then Brown had to use so much tyre to get to me from where he was… he was trying to go half a second faster than me.

"When you've got the lead and you've got the clear air and the nice cool tyres, it's much, much easier.”

The only hiccup of the day was Percat’s likely chance to miss out on a catch-up with kart team college Fernando Alonso, who went on to finish sixth in Sunday’s Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

"It's actually funny. I woke up this morning like, ‘Shit, if I win this thing, I'm gonna miss out on hanging out with Alonso,’" he joked.

"I've got like 45 minutes to get down to Aston Martin garage and talk go karts with him before he races.”

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