Oliver Gavin and Nick Percat overcame adversity and stiff opposition to take the minnow Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport team to a top six finish in the final leg of the Australian V8 Supercars PIRTEK Enduro Cup, the Castrol EDGE Gold Coast 600 in Surfers Paradise (24-25 October).
There were some question marks over the weather, as well as tyre and driver selection ahead of the first of two 300km races on Saturday (24 October), but the rain remained elusive and the entire field employed a typical Gold Coast strategy by installing their co-drivers and hard compound tyres early.
A textbook start from 11th on the grid saw Gavin breach the top ten on the blind approach to the first chicane and some clean and patient driving while others tangled helped the Hire A Hubby-backed Briton scythe his way up to seventh and remain at the head of a prolonged three-way fight with Warren Luff and Steve Richards.
The tight pack placed more of an emphasis on strategy and clean, efficient stops, therefore Gavin focused on managing tyre wear and fuel usage before clearing his minimum drive-time and pitting at the end of lap 34; LD Motorsport was struck by the five-time Le Mans winner’s ability to drive quickly while preserving the car and its tyres.
The #222 Holden VF Commodore settled back into tenth position after the stops, but solid sectors from Percat saw him rise to eighth and draw in on a lively exchange between Rick Kelly, Garth Tander and Tim Slade.
The LD Motorsport driver needed no second invitation to pass Slade and Kelly, quickly dispatching both just before a Safety Car deployment and holding sixth position to the end of the 102-lapper.
“I had a great run in the opening phase of Saturday’s race,” said Gavin. “It was very eventful with a few cars coming together and turning each other around. I then had some pressure from Warren Luff but I could always keep a couple of car lengths between us and he never threatened to make a move. I was also conscious that I had to give the car over to Nick in good condition, knowing the race could only be won in the final 40-lap stint. It was a case of keeping out of trouble and I managed to bring the car into the pits in seventh, for Nick to climb to sixth after some intense battles.”
On Sunday (25 October), slower and wayward rivals meant Percat was unable to unlock his Holden’s full potential in qualifying, but Gavin progressed two spots from 15th on the grid on the opening tour of that day’s race.
Unfortunately, the #222 Holden was off-note when it developed a cracked exhaust header, which resulted in high fuel consumption and forced Gavin to adapt his driving style to counter a subsequent lack of power off the turns.
The Englishman still possessed great speed.and did a stellar job to retain 13th prior to the driver-change on lap 34 and, while LD Motorsport gained in the Safety Car-induced pit stop cycle, Percat continued to steadily work his way up the leaderboard to take the lead.
All the while, conditions were becoming increasingly unbearable inside the car; temperatures soared, as the young Aussie had been unable to attach his helmet fan, his cool suit failed and hot exhaust gases were pumped into the footwell as a result of the cracked header, melting his boots.
The latter phase of the 300km race was an economy run and despite LD Motorsport’s best efforts, a tiny splash of fuel was required to get Percat home, dashing all hopes of a podium.
Nevertheless, Percat resolutely pushed on to take the finish in 15th and the race results meant the Anglo-Australian pairing concluded the Gold Coast 600 in ninth overall.
Suffering from heat exhaustion, Percat could hardly stand upon returning to the pits and he was pulled from the car and immediately placed in an ice bath before being assessed by on-site medics.
“The sixth place we achieved in Saturday’s race was the best result of our PIRTEK Enduro Cup campaign and we ended up ninth overall in the Gold Coast 600, which is a good result for Nick (Percat) and I,” said Gavin. “There were missed opportunities at Sandown and Bathurst through no fault of our own and I’m pleased that we finally managed to show our speed by taking that top six finish. Of course, we missed out on a potential podium due to the cracked header on Sunday, but we did lead the race and we have shown a lot of promise throughout the campaign. LD Motorsport is only a small team, but we punched above our weight by running with the big-hitters and all we needed was a break.
“So much happened at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast and my knowledge and understanding of how to drive a V8 Supercar has grown immensely. I know how to get the best from myself and everything at my disposal and I feel I’m gaining some momentum, having been wide-eyed at some points during my first campaign, despite having so much experience in various racing categories. It feels more in my comfort zone.”