ADELAIDE, South Australia — official series release — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Rising star Nick Percat admits the knowledge he could miss out on a full-time V8 Supercars drive in 2015 wouldn’t hurt so much if he had flopped in 2014.
Then — the 26-year old, who made his full-time debut in the championship this year driving the HHA/Coates Hire Holden Commodore VF run out of Walkinshaw Racing — would have been able to walk away without regret.
But a 12th-place finish in the championship standings – just 18 points out of the top 10 — highlighted by a near win at Sydney Motorsport Park and third with English import Oliver Gavin in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, has left him desperate to stay in the fight full-time.
“If I was flailing around in 24th on the grid I would probably nearly have to say ‘I’m good enough for an enduro drive but not really good enough to cut it’. But when you have the year we have had (it hurts),” he said after finishing 11th in the second washed out race of the Sydney NRMA 500 last Sunday.
“I was pretty shattered when I found out (about 2015),” he added. “But tonight it is probably even more upsetting because I know if it doesn’t work out, that bit of equipment sitting here, I won’t be able to drive it. It’s a good car and it’s a good team around me.”
Percat finds himself on the championship outer through no fault of his own. His 2014 entry was underpinned by the Racing Entitlements Contract (or REC) of long-time motorsport entrepreneur James Rosenberg. But the South Australian elected to hand his REC back to V8 Supercars before the December 1 entry deadline for the 2015 championship, rather than pick up a shortfall in commercial backing for the car for the second year in a row.
As a consequence, Walkinshaw Racing has confirmed discussions with Charlie Schwerkolt Racing, which may move its REC, sponsorship and new driver Lee Holdsworth from Prodrive Racing Australia (better known as Ford Performance Racing) into the factory Holden squad’s fourth car.
While those negotiations still have some way to go, not least because PRA insists Schwerkolt still has a year of his existing contract to run, Percat’s chances of a 2015 full-time drive have been reduced because of how late in the season the drama has unfolded.
“It was confirmed on Monday (December 1) that the car wouldn’t get entered, so I haven’t had a chance to look for anything else,” Percat said. “Since then I have been in New Zealand and been racing at Homebush. So yeah, it’s not much time to go and try and find another drive even if there is one.”
“James Rosenberg hasn’t done anything wrong by me, the team hasn’t done anything wrong by me, it is just a poor situation with the way it is trying to find sponsorship these days.”
Options are definitely limited for Percat in 2015, who has another year to run on his current contract with Walkinshaw Racing. Team owner Ryan Walkinshaw and CEO Adrian Burgess have made it clear they definitely want him to stay with the organisation driving in the Pirtek Enduro Cup. He may team up with mentor Garth Tander in a Holden Racing Team Commodore, reuniting the duo that won Bathurst in 2011.
If he wants to stay in a full-time drive he may have to consider Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, which is on the hunt for two drivers in 2015 because Russell Ingall has retired from full-time V8 competition and the team is re-expanding to two Commodores.
One of the keys to Percat’s driving future will be Holden motorsport boss Simon McNamara, who has played an important role behind the scenes in reshaping LDM into a more professional outfit. He has also been a long-time supporter of Percat.
Intriguingly, there are suggestions that McNamara is looking for ways to keep Percat in the fourth Walkinshaw Racing Commodore full time.
“I will speak to Simon McNamara,” confirmed Percat. “He has always helped me out, from everything from the livery for this weekend – Holden Design did that and Simon sorted that for me – and he’s sorted a lot of things for me in the last few years. So I am sure he will have my back.”
“Adrian (Burgess) wants to keep me here and the whole team wants to keep me here,” Percat added. “But I need to look out for what’s best for me. Ideally, I will be in the same car next year and won’t have to give it away to anyone else and roll on again.”