PERCY: THE LION’S FAITHFUL LIEUTENANT

Win Percy served as the inaugural chief of the Holden Racing Team. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

WIN Percy holds a unique place in Holden’s history of factory-backed assaults on the Bathurst 1000.

The Englishman played a double role in the early years of the Holden Racing Team, serving as both its lead driver and team manager in its inaugural 1990 season headlined by an underdog victory in ‘The Great Race.’

The three-time British Touring Car Champion was renowned throughout the 1980s as one of the world’s top sedan racers, his long tenure with Tom Walkinshaw Racing including his first taste of Mount Panorama aboard one of its Jaguars in the 1985 race.

Percy went on to make five Bathurst 1000 starts with the Holden Racing Team, but his first start in a factory-supported Holden is easily overlooked.

Percy’s first Bathurst in a Commodore was in the Holden Motor Sport-backed Roadways entry in 1987. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

In 1987, he joined Allan Grice aboard a Holden Motor Sport-supported, Roadways Racing-run Commodore, the duo running with the leaders in the early stages before a broken rear axle put them out.

After racing a fuel-injected Roadways Commodore VL with Grice the following year, Percy returned to factory colours for Bathurst in 1989, forming part of a two-car effort run by Larry Perkins under the Holden Racing Team banner.

TWR elected to run HRT as its own operation for 1990, Walkinshaw tasking Percy with establishing the fledgling venture.

An entire chapter is devoted to HRT in the new book Racing the Lion: An Illustrated History of Holden in Australian Motorsport, a 400-page hardcover book paying tribute to the marque’s rich competition history spanning over seven decades.

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Starting with an empty workshop in Notting Hill, one of the Perkins-built cars from the previous year, plus the TWR-built car that had spectacularly failed in the early laps of the 1988 Bathurst 1000, Percy put together the team that produced one of the biggest upsets in ‘Great Race’ history.

The Group A rules of the day favoured turbocharged cars in the shorter Australian Touring Car Championship races, but the V8-engined Commodores came back into calculations in the long distance races.

Despite resistance from Walkinshaw, Percy recruited Grice as his co-driver for Bathurst. Ironically, it was Grice who did the bulk of the driving in the lead-up as Percy nursed a shoulder injury.

From sixth on the grid the duo moved steadily up the order as their turbocharged opposition faded; Percy and Grice led a race-high 41 laps on their way to victory, while HRT’s second entry of Neil Crompton and Brad Jones came home in fifth place.

Percy heads to the podium to celebrate his victory with Grice in the 1990 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

Percy continued to lead the team into 1991 as Holden’s new VN Group A SS made its racing debut.

The year followed a similar pattern to 1990 with the Commodore once again an outside contender at the endurance races, Percy and Grice outlasting all but one of the turbocharged opposition to give the VN a second-place finish in its sole Bathurst as the factory Holden squad’s weapon of choice.

His two year program completed, Percy returned home to England at the end of 1991 having laid the foundations for a team that, within five years, became the dominant force in Supercars racing.

Percy gives it the beans out of Murray’s Corner during the opening stint of the 1992 Bathurst 1000. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

However, that wasn’t the end of his time with HRT: he returned as a hired gun to race for the squad at the endurance races in 1992 and 1993, he and Grice winning their class aboard the new-generation winged VP Commodore with a fifth-place finish in ’92.

WIN PERCY
Bathurst 1000 record in factory Holdens
Debut:
1987
Last Start: 1993
Starts: 6
Wins: 1 (1990)
Poles: 0
Podiums: 2 (1990, 1991)

Will Dale is V8 Sleuth's Head of Content - Digital. He began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.