Strong Start for Walkinshaw Andretti United in Newcastle
The NTI backed Walkinshaw Andretti United squad made a strong start to the Repco Supercars Championship on the streets of Newcastle, with Chaz Mostert leaving the meet leading the title standings.
Friday was split into three 45-minute practice sessions for the crews to acclimatise the brand new Gen3 package to the wild street circuit, with Chaz instantly on the pace in all-three runs, placing fifth, fourth and third.
Qualifying on Saturday morning saw continued improvement, where Chaz provisionally qualified second, before dropping to seventh on the starting grid after the most competitive top-ten shootout in the history of Supercars.
After settling into eighth off the start, strong car pace and smart strategy saw Chaz clear the second round of pit stops in fifth, before he battled his way past polesitter Brodie Kostecki on lap 80 of 95 to ultimately claim fourth with the fastest lap of the race.
However, following the post-race disqualifications of Shane van Gisbergen and Broc Feeney, Chaz found himself in second, a stout result for the debut of Walkinshaw Andretti United as a Ford squad.
“We will definitely take it, it’s a good way to start the season,” said Chaz.
“The team has been awesome all weekend, the car ran great all day, it was tough out there - we had a good quali car today, but I didn’t get the shootout exactly right.”
Sunday started out on the right foot, with Chaz nailing his shootout lap to start race two from second spot, and led the race away from the initial start, which was ultimately red flagged after an accident in the back of the pack.
Chaz ran at the front of the field throughout, only losing the lead with five circuits remaining after a contentious move from ultimate winner van Gisbergen.
“It’s pretty cool to leave here with a couple of trophies and the Championship lead, to consider where we have come from in the last eight weeks to where we are now it’s incredible,” said Chaz.
“It’s a testament to the entire team, not only the ones at the track and the workshop but the families at home as well, because it’s been hard on every single one of them – we owe them a lot.”
Meanwhile for Nick Percat aboard the NTI Mustang, his first day at the office as a Ford pilot resulted in practice results of fourth, 14th and sixth.
Qualifying however didn’t go to plan with Nick registering the 21st fastest time, however, he quickly jumped into 17th position off the race start.
With a long first stint, Nick made solid forward progress before pitting from third position on lap 32.
Sadly, Nick’s race ended in the pits following brake issues.
“The componentry failure put an end to our day early, but the guys are already hard at work on the Mobil 1 NTI Racing number two, so we will be ready to go again tomorrow morning,” said Nick.
“Thanks to the crew for their hard work and everyone for the support, it was great to see Chaz have so much car speed at the end there, so looking forward to getting back on the positive side of things tomorrow.”
Starting from 20th on Sunday, it was another tough race for Nick, with a car issue slowing his charge, ultimately coming home in 23rd.
“Tough day that one, our race pace was strong until mid-race, until it all turned upside down,” said Nick.
“Not much we can do there, but we will get our heads together back at the workshop and find out what went wrong.
“An amazing result for the team with Chaz finishing off the round with two trophies.
“So we will get the Mobil 1 NTI Racing number two back, strip her down, find out what’s happened and come out swinging next round.”
The next stop for the Supercars Championship is alongside the Formula One visit to the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit from March 30th to April 2nd.