"This is unbelievable. Oh my God" — Nick Percat claims incredible maiden solo V8 Supercar victory
2011 Bathurst 1000 champion Nick Percat has taken his first solo race win on the streets of Adelaide, at the Clipsal 500, after an incredible and controversial race dominated by incident and political tension in pit lane.
"I've watched this since I was in a pram, this is unbelievable. Oh my God," said an emotional Percat, as his Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team — one of the smallest in pit lane — celebrated their maiden win in the series, after debuting in 2010.
Several bouts of torrential rain and lightning struck the parklands circuit over the course of the race, prompting numerous cautions for both extreme weather and incidents. The time spent behind the safety car ultimately led to the already fragmented race becoming time-certain.
Because of the fragmented and chaotic nature of the race, traditional pit strategies were voided by most teams as soon as it began. This came back to bite crews later in the race, as many realized — while the race was suspended in the treacherous weather — that the rules V8 Supercars follow stipulated that each team must refuel each car with 140-litres of fuel during the race — only a handful of teams, including Percat, having done this by the time the field had become aware of the oversight.
Three Kiwis qualified in the top four, including Scott McLaughlin, but none were able to convert their speed into a result. Photo / Daniel Kalisz
As the field tippy-toed around the circuit for the first half of the race, potential race winners Chaz Mostert and James Courtney both crashed out of contention at the infamous high-speed turn eight.
Courtney's crash was one of many occurrences that dotted the event that prompted criticism of V8 Supercars' officialdom, as the crash had taken place just minutes after the track had been deemed safe enough to race on.
Three New Zealanders had ran in the top positions in the early laps, Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin, and Fabian Coulthard, but as the race unfolded none of them would be able to convert their speed into a big result — van Gisbergen the highest finisher of them in 10th.
When teams started to realize that they would all need to make an extra pit stop for a full tank of fuel, or take on a timed post-race penalty, the on-track race order at the time became almost completely irrelevant. But it was quickly figured that Nick Percat, Michael Caruso, Garth Tander, and several others had played themselves into a positive position.
Percat's position as a potential winner was only made clear in the dying minutes. Photo / Ben Auld
As the leaders — headed by a disappointed Scott McLaughlin — peeled out of the order to take their overlooked pit stop, the way was cleared for Percat; who had been poised in the top five.
Over the course of the final lap, Percat battled with Fabian Coulthard for the lead on track, but held him off to take the incredible win. Coulthard too would be penalized for not taking on the right amount of fuel.
"[I was] pretty conservative at the start, the car was amazing in the dry. It was amazing to battle it out with Fabian [Coulthard] at the end there, I'm really good mates with him and it was really good to get the over and under — I couldn't believe it coming into the last corner," explained Percat.
For a confused Coulthard, who had crossed the line in second, the result was an anti-climax to a successful debut with DJR Team Penske after having claimed pole position for the race.
"Righto, good chat," he said, after a lengthy attempt at an explanation of the ruling from Fox Sports commentator Greg Murphy.
"At the end of the day I'm happy for my little mate Percat. Local boy, he deserves the win," he added.
Rick Kelly attempts to navigate the vast amount of standing water. Photo / Nissan Motorsport
The wild weekend of racing sees Nissan Motorsports Nismo pilot Michael Caruso take the lead of the championship, after eventually finishing second in the last race after penalties were applied to various drivers in the field, including Coulthard.
"It's a credit to my team behind me, they've done an incredible job. I'm really proud of them, because they've worked really hard in the off season. To have a Nissan up on the podium here is a big step forward for us," Caruso said.
With van Gisbergen leading the Kiwis in 10th, Scott McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard, and André Heimgartner finished 12th, 14th, and 18th respectively.
The series now travels to Symmons Plains for the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint on March 18–20.
1. Nick Percat 2. Michael Caruso 3. Garth Tander 4. Cameron Waters 5. David Reynolds 6. Todd Kelly 7. Rick Kelly 8. Jason Bright 9. Mark Winterbottom 10. Shane van Gisbergen