A changing of identity in 2017 hasn’t, unfortunately, changed the unsuccessful architecture of the renowned Walkinshaw Racing organisation in the Supercars championship.
Now known as the HSV Racing Team, following the shock withdrawal of factory Holden support and the HRT moniker in 2016 – the Clayton-based squad finds itself in familiar waters, with heads now beginning to roll.
The news last week of the termination of the team manager in the highly-esteemed Adrian Burgess, sent ripples through the Australian touring car scene, proceeding a horror weekend at the previous round of the championship in Perth.
“It has obviously been a difficult start to the year from a racing perspective, and I came to the conclusion that a fresh start was the way forward. We appreciate Adrian’s focus and hard work over the last three years, and we wish him all the best in the future,” said team owner Ryan Walkinshaw in a statement.
Though will the departure of Burgess; an individual with success at powerhouse teams such as Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight Race Engineering, drive the team back towards a path to success, that the Walkinshaw brand is synonymous with?
HSV Racing Team disembarked at the opening round of the season in the competitive fashion as they normally do, claiming a podium around the gruelling streets of Adelaide. Since then, the outfit has been in freefall – with neither James Courtney or Scott Pye close to the top ten of the standings.
The common denominator here being the fact that the Walkinshaw prepared Holden Commodores, only seem to run competitively whilst on street circuits, or track layouts with low-speed corners.
As stipulated by this writer ahead of the curtain-raising Clipsal 500, if speed can be found on a consistent basis across all races, at all types of circuits –there’s little to stop the HSV Racing Team from being a championship contender once again.
Perhaps that was being too optimistic, expecting a team that boasts only three driver’s championship wins since the turn of the millennium, to drastically change its fortunes without pressure from a manufacturer over its head.
The team’s decision to part ways with its long-time servant in Garth Tander as well, was a poor move considering the change Walkinshaw would undergo for 2017 without the Holden backing.
Tander’s team-building skills imaginably, could in hindsight have paved a better direction for the team, as supposed to the star-power of 2010-series champion Courtney. This sentiment can be attested to vastly different season that GRM is having, with Tander on hand and their own seismic transformation from Volvos to Holdens during the off-season.
It’s difficult to conclude however, that the outfit is fundamentally doomed. Winning is in its DNA, though with the rise of juggernauts around them – Walkinshaw seems a little antiquated in comparison and needs to “go back to basics,” as Courtney has eluded to.
Heading into the fifth round of the championship at Winton Motor Raceway, a track which has been one of the HSV Racing Team’s worst in years gone by and ironically their testing ground – there will be scrutiny over whether Burgess’ axing was justified.
It’s difficult to predict now where the future of this fabled team lies. Forget not, that they lay the foundation for the legend of the lion – though that is in the past and in the present and future is where they must establish a new legacy of success.