In the early years of his career, Nick Percat went from winning Bathurst on his first attempt in 2011 – the first rookie in 30 years to do so – to winning the Australian Formula Ford championship and breaking Steven Richards’ record for most race wins.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing since then, with the veteran facing a turbulent journey with mixed results.
Talking to FoxSports.com.au, the 32-year-old opens up on the decision to re-sign with Brad Jones Racing, what the future of Supercars could look like, and that disqualification from the 2020 Bathurst 1000.
Do you think that signing on for another two years took a lot of pressure off you throughout the season, and let you just focus on the racing? How important was that for you?
“Yes, there were a few reasons for that. I wanted to create a sense in the team that I was there for the long haul and not going anywhere. So, to sign a deal when you still had a full run on your contract, there was a little bit in that with myself and Brad (Jones) to make sure that everyone in Brad Jones racing knew what we had going forward, and we could really start to ramp up the development. Really remind the guys and the girls there that I am part of the furniture, and I am not going anywhere.”
Do you feel like that happened?
“I think so. I think it was a good thing. It obviously creates a positive vibe through the workshop and the race team. For me it was good because then you don’t have people knocking on the door every December saying are you free for next year?
“I wanted it to be clear that I was loyal and only interested in driving for Brad, so that was why we extended the deal early.”
Incredibly sad news about the Adelaide 500 …
“It’s not ideal; there is a lot of positive chat around it. So, if the government was to change from Liberal to Labor in SA the race will be back on.
“I feel sorry for everyone in hospitality, obviously there is so much revenue that comes in. I feel sorry for the kids dreaming of being race car drivers, that they can’t go watch arguably one of the best races of the year, on the fence watching their heroes go around. It is disappointing, it is way more than a race, and I think that’s why there is so much push to get it reinstated.”
You’ve had very mixed experiences at Bathurst, has your opinion of the race changed over the years or is still the greatest race?
“It is still the greatest race, the greatest track to go to. No other track that I’ve been to ever actually makes you second guess or gives you a little fright during practice because you have to scare yourself to be fast, and then you get comfortable with that level of commitment, and it continues from there.
“I had a very good run early in my career at Bathurst with wins and multiple podiums and inside the top five quite a lot, and then I’ve gone on this run of shocking results, but that’s what Bathurst is about.
“This year though we got to show how fast the car was. We got a bit of spotlight with (the) top ten shootout …. I still think it’s a very proud moment for Brad and the team that we are operating at this budget and we have taken it to the factory teams and outqualified them.
“That lap is a full pissing competition. It’s the top ten shootout at Bathurst, you lay your cards down on the line, and that’s where the teams get to beat their chests and go ‘look how fast we are.’”
Bathurst this year – a phenomenal shootout performance, and then disaster struck.
“Yes, the shootout lap was probably one of the best shootout laps in my career … I don’t know if I’ve ever been the first one out before, especially at that place, it was pretty interesting. On my warm-up lap … I just trusted that the car was going to hold on and that the car I was given was going to do the job.
“It was such an enjoyable lap … but obviously it all unravelled and didn’t go to plan shortly after the shootout. Still, for me personally, it was the most satisfying lap I had done in a shootout, and it was handy it was in Bathurst.”
Thomas Randle said it was a dream to co-drive with you, is the feeling mutual?
“For him, he sacrificed so much during the year … I think myself and the whole of BJR were very grateful for what he did, especially with the situation he had going on earlier in the year.
“It was a shame, and I really wanted to give him that fairy-tale result because I felt like it would have been fitting … but it wasn’t to be.
“But we had a pretty cool experience … hopefully I’ll have him driving again with me next year – but that’s the selfish Nick, he needs to be in the main game soon, and I think he deserves to be.”
If you could change one rule, what would it be?
“This year has been quite good, there has been less complaints from the drivers, and less niggling from the driving group back to the stewards.
“It would be good if you get rubbed up and pushed wide and if you retaliate in a similar manner where you end up swapping positions back again that is generally play on. That’s ended up in a time penalty in the past, which is quite silly, so to be honest, I am happy with that. Surprisingly, I’ve got nothing to complain about!
What do you think the future of Supercars looks like? Can we expect to see any changes?
“I hope the one thing that never changes is that we never lose the sequential gearbox on the gear stick. I don’t want paddles on the car. I don’t think we need to be like some hybrid GT car.
“There is a reason why the Australian and international fans love our cars. When you go on-board, there is a bit going on … I find GT racing very very boring, so I think the minute they go to paddles, it is probably going to kill my love for Supercars, which will be disappointing.”