One of the most polarising pieces of news in the Supercars championship last year, was the announcement that GM would not be renewing its factory backing of the Walkinshaw empire’s Holden Racing Team.
The legendary HRT moniker would instead be transferred over to the immensely successful Triple Eight organisation from 2017 onwards, off the back of their unprecedented glory since aligning with Holden in 2010.
One of the most decorated outfits on the Australian touring car scene, HRT under the ownership of the Walkinshaw family have enjoyed six drivers’ titles to their name, as well as seven Bathurst 1000 crowns – most recently in 2011 with Garth Tander and Nick Percat.
However, since that triumph the team’s fortunes have dwindled. In the five campaigns since that Bathurst victory, neither Tander nor 2010 series champion James Courtney have made a serious impression on their rivals at Triple Eight or FPR (now Prodrive).
Transitioning over to the VF-spec Commodore under the Car of the Future regulations, seemed to have hampered the Clayton based squad further.
Both Tander and Courtney’s machines appeared to only have speed on street circuits, upon the bulk of their victories since 2013 have come. The latter will this weekend pursue a fourth consecutive win on the gruelling streets of Adelaide.
At circuits that placed emphasis on high-speed corners, the former Holden Racing Team struggled to make any sort of impression. It was at these tracks the likes of Brad Jones Racing, with their smaller operation by comparison – had the edge over the established giants.
In an economical landscape where the modest saloon car is slowly dying off, it is understandable in a way the cutthroat nature of GM and Holden’s decision to grant Triple Eight with the Holden Racing Team title – considering their success.
Even in a sport with such passion as Supercars, where history and heritage is prided on, there is no room for sentiment when the results aren’t being delivered.
But can Walkinshaw under its slick new banner as the HSV Racing Team change its fortunes in 2017 and reassert themselves as a front-running Holden team?
The last time the HSV label graced the grid as its own entity, was a period in which the factory Holden Racing Team were on the decline. Both the 2006 and 2007 drivers’ championships were attained by the HSV Dealer Team, free of the pressures of being a factory team.
Perhaps without the weight of the world on their shoulders, Ryan Walkinshaw and his HSV Racing Team can mirror the accomplishments of the team that defeated his own between 2006 and 2007.
Fresh blood in the form of Scott Pye who replaces long-time servant Tander and renewed faith in Courtney could be the start of Walkinshaw’s march back to the fore.
If speed can be found on a consistent basis across all races, at all types of circuits – then there’s little to stop the HSV Racing Team from being a championship contender once again.
HRT instantly sparks thoughts of iconic drivers such as Peter Brock, Craig Lowndes, Greg Murphy and their most recent champion in Mark Skaife. Those thoughts will forever be associated with the Walkinshaw group, as they were the foundation for the legend of the lion.
Win or lose, sentiment or no sentiment. Motorsport loves a feel-good story and for the future of Supercars, none would be better so than the renaissance of the Walkinshaw empire.