Percat, McPherson off to productive start

Grant ‘Shippy’ McPherson with Nick Percat. Picture: Daniel Kalisz

Nick Percat says his fledgling relationship with Grant McPherson is already paying dividends for Walkinshaw Andretti United.

After a five-year spell at Brad Jones Racing, the 2011 Bathurst 1000 winner shifted stables to the team he began his Supercars career with.

It’s been far from a fairytale return, however. Percat has had to endure instability with no more than two successive rounds to date with the same race engineer.

In fact, Geoffrey Slater, who was signed to lead the direction of the #2 Holden ZB Commodore in 2022, was recently let go by the team.

Now Percat has championship- and Bathurst 1000-winning engineer McPherson cemented alongside him for the remainder of this year.

Although Percat and ‘Shippy’ didn’t net the same success that Chaz Mostert and Adam De Borre did at the Darwin Triple Crown, it was nevertheless a step forward.

Percat finished two of the weekend’s three races in the top 10, ending a seven-race dry spell for the Mobil 1 NTI Racing entry.

“I actually have a bit more of a pep in my step after that last race,” Percat told Speedcafe.com.”

“The car was nice to drive and made a lot more sense again, and it’s great to have Shippy on the car.

“He’s keen as and goes through everything as hard as anyone I’ve worked with. It’s good.

“Even from Saturday to Sunday, there’s been a bit of learning and we’ve probably missed a few little tricks on the set-up.

“The car didn’t have great tyre deg and I thought we probably could have finished 12th or 10th in that race if we had a bit better deg but didn’t, so finished 15th.

“Then [Sunday], tuned it up, communication lines and all that, we talked and he quickly understood what I wanted, that was really good.”

Heading into the season half of the season, Percat said he’s looking forward to having a stable line-up.

McPherson will stay on the headset while technical director Carl Faux continues to oversee the wider engineering group.

“People don’t really realise it, I’ve had Geoff, Carl, Geoff, Shippy in the last four weekends,” Percat explained.

“So I’m getting good at learning how to deal with new engineers quickly, but Shippy was all over it. He understood what he needed to do. He’s such a racer, which is what I love. That’s what I want.

“Once we had Saturday, got through what we need to, [Sunday] it felt like we’ve been working together for ages. So it’s good.

“I can’t see anything changing on Car 2 for a long time now. So it is good. I was saying to the boys, it’s the happiest I’ve been to finish P10 because it actually felt racy.

“The last three events. I felt like I’m not racy, I was just pitting early and getting track position and backing the field up.

“With this one, to be battling people and passing people, and to race [David] Reynolds around here is bloody good. They’re in good form, to beat him was quite good.”

Percat conceded he hasn’t ticked the boxes he would have liked to by now.

The 33-year-old is yet to score a podium this year, while team-mate Mostert has four wins and a third. Nevertheless, it’s no reason for concern.

With the NTI Townsville 500 looming, a circuit where Walkinshaw Andretti United has typically gone well, the July 8-10 event presents an opportunity to hit restart.

“People looking from the outside, it looks like it’s been horrendous,” said Percat.

“When we have engineering changes every second weekend and you’re going up against Chaz and De Borre, that’s a pretty mean task.

“For me, yeah, a bit of a reset, pretend like the last couple rounds didn’t happen and get on with it.

“I’m looking forward to Townsville. I’ve got a pole there before in the past and really enjoy that track. I’d say a Walkinshaw car around there’s probably pretty strong.

“So honestly, the relationship with Chaz and the way we’re working together and whole team, the morale is pretty amazing, which is good.”

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