Coates Hire Racing’s Nick Percat is competing in his maiden V8 Supercars championship and this weekend makes his first appearance in the main game at Barbagallo Raceway.
Percat has fond memories of Barbagallo Raceway, as he won his first Dunlop Series V8 race here in 2012 and thanks to winning the 2011 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1,000 with West Aussie Garth Tander, Percat enjoys strong local support and relishes the challenges of the 2.4 km track.
According to Percat Barbagallo is a track that has a bit of everything, including high-speed sweepers, hills, fast change of direction, and a massive downhill braking zone.
It all adds up to provide great racing.
Here’s how Nick tackles a lap of Barbagallo Raceway aboard the HHA Racing V8 Supercar: “I cross the line in fourth gear and grab fifth before the turn one braking area which is a really good passing opportunity. The turn in is at quite high speed and I use a lot of trail braking into the corner while changing down to third gear. It’s vital to have good front grip here to keep the corner speed up and at the same time I need to have good rear grip for the exit, because getting the power down out of this corner isn’t easy due to the surface.
“Hard on the throttle, I go through the turn two kink, and pull fourth gear into turn three using the inside kerb to shorten the track. The car launches on two wheels here and it’s a great spot for the photographers. As I land I’m in the turn four braking zone, which is just a quick stab on the brakes and back to third. It’s a very long corner and important to keep the speed up; it’s a bit like turn one, only this time I am going left. I carry as much speed as I can going up the hill, feathering the throttle on the exit and short shift to fourth gear as I go into the difficult turn five right hander with its blind exit over the crest.
“I use the outside kerb on exit, but its very harsh and as soon as I hit it, it tries to push me wider. If I use too much it will spit me onto the dirt, so its another important corner to get spot on.
“I carry the speed over the hill up to fifth gear and then downhill into a difficult braking zone at turn 7 or what I call the ‘basin’. I am in third gear at the turn in point carrying plenty of speed and being careful not to lock my right front wheel here. Once I'm at the bottom of the hill I release the brake and try and hold the car in as tight as I can exiting the corner.
“I try and hug the white line for as long as I can through the exit, building speed gently to avoid loosing rear end traction. I then change up to fourth gear and go over the crest changing up to fifth and sixth gears before the final turn into the most important braking zone on the whole track.
It starts downhill and then towards the end of the stop comes back uphill, so most of the slowing of the car is done at the very end of the stop, where I shift down to third gear.
“If I have a good run out of the basin and pick up a tow from the car in front, this next corner provides another good passing opportunity. I can have a really solid attempt at passing on the inside but have to be careful not to the position back on exit, as it's a great corner to switchback on the passing car if you set yourself up correctly.
“I don’t use the huge kerb on the inside but use a fair bit of the exit kerb which is also quite sizeable. I'm careful not to use too much as I will damage the underside of the car... and upset my mechanics!
“Its also an important corner to get the exit speed right for the run down the start/finish straight, where it’s easy lose time. Just before I cross the line I grab fourth gear to complete what I hope is a quick lap.”
There is a difference in car set up for qualifying and the races at Barbagallo. Initially I will try and establish a qualifying set up before turning my attention to finding a suitable race set up. I aim for a set up that will give me a comfortable and quick car that is kind on its tyres and will work over the distance of the races.
A car with a soft set-up has noticeable body roll and its stability and corner entry is compromised, whereas a stiff set-up allows me to be aggressive as the car responds a lot quicker. I have to manage the tyres very carefully and always try and find a balance between grip and tyre longevity.
The gearbox gets a real workout here with 20 gear changes each lap of the 2.4 km track.
Barbagallo is a real tyre eater due to its surface and the high lateral loads through the long uphill turn four and turn six, ‘basin.’ As we are running on the soft compound Dunlop tyres it’s very important to minimise sliding the car. The more it slides the more it’s burning up its tyres, meaning a lack of grip and slower lap times as the race progresses.
The prime overtaking opportunities at the Barbagallo are into turn one and also turn seven, however if you are brave you can sometimes overtake going into the ‘Basin.’
Length: 2.42 kilometres
Average speed: 157km/h
Maximum speed: 252km/h
Fastest Point: Back straight
Slowest Point: Turn 7
Corners: 7 (2 Left 5 Right)
Most Race Wins: Craig Lowndes 14
Most Pole Positions: Jamie Whincup 8
Qualifying Lap Record: 54.9898s (Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore VE 2011)
Race Lap Record: 55.9440s (Jason Bright Holden Commodore VY 2004)
Barbagallo Raceway has been operating since 1969, and is one of the longest serving venues in the history of the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercars Championship. The 2.42km circuit contains just one genuine left-hand corner, and is notable for its unique surface and vast sand traps. A spectator friendly venue with the esses providing a unique vantage point, showcasing V8 Supercars at their limit.
2013 Highlight: Last year the venue saw Craig Lowndes become the most successful driver in the category’s history as he recorded his 91st V8 Supercars race win.