Supercars’ next change of scenery candidate?

THERE is a baseball term which sometimes applies in motorsport: Change of scenery candidate.

The most obvious Supercars example in the past 12 months probably is Nick Percat.

For whatever reason, the much-vaunted reunion between Percat and Walkinshaw Andretti United simply did not work out.

Ousted from WAU after two years, Percat linked up with Matt Stone Racing, which has provided an environment that’s got him back to his best.

After finishing 20th in the 2023 championship, Percat has instantly rebounded to his usual self of being a perennial top 10 candidate for an underdog team.

WAU too has certainly done okay out of it, hotshot rookie Ryan Wood settling in nicely as Chaz Mostert’s new teammate.

There’s another change of scenery candidate that springs to mind as the latest Supercars silly season approaches: Anton De Pasquale.

De Pasquale is in his fourth season at DJR. Pic: Supplied/Mark Horsburgh

There was no shortage of hype around De Pasquale’s move to Dick Johnson Racing at the start of 2021.

Although he didn’t take over the famous #17 which had previously belonged to Scott McLaughlin (and of course Dick Johnson), he was allocated his renowned engineer Ludo Lacroix.

Fairly or not, the external expectation was he’d be the team’s new McLaughlin while Will Davison took over from Fabian Coulthard as the veteran presence.

Year one, there was plenty of promise as De Pasquale chalked up 10 pole positions and six race wins (five of which came at Sydney Motorsport Park).

He was then Shane van Gisbergen’s closest championship threat through the first half of 2022.

But since then, there’s been relatively little to write home about – and that’s not to pin the blame on De Pasquale or the team.

Just for whatever reason, it’s got to the point where maybe change would be good for both parties.

Right back to his early Erebus Motorsport days, De Pasquale has possessed an all-important trait: raw pace and thus the ability to qualify up the front.

Race craft has at times been a point of criticism; and De Pasquale in Townsville appeared dejected about his #11 Shell V-Power Mustang’s limitations over a race distance in any case.

Lap 1 damage forced De Pasquale out of the Saturday race in Townsville. Pic: Supplied/Mark Horsburgh

DJR has been chipping away at reinventing itself, having too often wound up behind any or all of Tickford Racing, Walkinshaw Andretti United and Grove Racing in the Ford pecking order.

It parted ways with Lacroix last off-season and long-time team manager Ben Croke more recently.

Change in the driving ranks could be on the cards too, with De Pasquale and Davison both off-contract. Many have touted PremiAir Racing as a frontrunner for Brodie Kostecki’s services but DJR could well be a factor; the Stapylton squad is also suggested to have an option on rising star Kai Allen.

Could De Pasquale, still just 28, actually be better served away from DJR at a team like Grove Racing (where pressure is mounting on Richie Stanaway) or even back at Erebus (which is bound to lose Kostecki at season’s end)?

A change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered.

Back to Percat. Even during a tough Townsville weekend, this is what the five-time race winner had to say about his move to MSR, with whom he recently inked a contract extension through 2027:

“This time last year I was probably written off by every single person in pitlane, that it’s time to retire,” he said on the Townsville 500 broadcast.

“And then you change teams and get into a (different) environment… you can do great things.”

The same could ring true in both directions for DJR and De Pasquale.

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