Walkinshaw’s salvation lies with Andretti and United

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Supercar driver Scott McLaughlin (Shell V-Power Racing Team) during this mornings practice at Mount Panorama Bathurst, in Bathurst, Saturday, October 7, 2017. The Bathurst 1000 is the most famed race in the V8 Super Car calendar, fought out over 1000kms, the event draws fans from all over the country to the New South Wales town of Bathurst. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

    The build-up to the Bathurst 1000 oversaw a momentous announcement regarding the beleaguered HSV Racing Team, with the organisation set to welcome Andretti Autosport and United Autosports in 2018.

    From the first of January 2018, the former Holden Racing Team will be reborn as Walkinshaw Andretti United, bringing together a triumvirate of motorsport heavyweights into a sole project in the Supercars series.

    Well documented on this column throughout the year, have been the woes of the Walkinshaw outfit. Since losing the rights of being the factory Holden team in 2016, the sacking of their stalwart driver in Garth Tander and then the departure of team manager Adrian Burgess – there has been no end to the outfit’s misery.

    Until now that is, with U.S. giant Michael Andretti and McLaren Group CEO Zak Brown, on behalf of United Autosports, buying a stake into the Walkinshaw organisation.

    “To be able to partner with both Andretti Autosport and United Autosports is an honour,” said Ryan Walkinshaw in a statement following the announcement.

    “We’ve looked from afar at what both have to offer the team moving forward, which is why everyone should be so excited.

    “Fundamentally, we are doing it differently. This combination of international expertise is a pivotal step in accelerating our development, getting us where we need to be.

    “We’ve been looking for partners who can add value to this team, both on and off the track, so to find that so resoundingly is the most pleasing element.

    “It’s not only an alliance of technical expertise, but commercial prowess. Their experience, knowledge and record, both on and off the race-track, gives us, our current partners, and any future partners, access to global networks and talent pools.

    “Today is the beginning of a new era. We are still firmly focused on the job at hand for 2017, but are eagerly looking forward to 2018.”

    What screams optimism about this new partnership, is that it emulates what was pioneered by Dick Johnson Racing in 2015, when they united with American racing icon in Roger Penske.

    Since winning their last championship in 2010 with James Courtney, DJR endured a frustrating lack of success in the years to come. That was until Team Penske arrived and invested into the legendary squad, to create what is the super-team today.

    For Walkinshaw, their last championship win came back in 2002, which is difficult to fathom considering the success of the Holden brand throughout the 2000s. Any of their achievements since, including Bathurst 1000 wins in 2009 and 2011 – have been dwarfed by the success of the ex-HSV Dealer Team and current Holden factory squad in Triple Eight.

    With the unsurmountable success that DJR Team Penske have enjoyed in 2017 alone, having now had three seasons to set the foundations and utilise new resources – it is formula that can certainly put Walkinshaw back among the front-runners of Supercars.

    Andretti himself, who boasts a rich racing lineage from his father Mario the ex-Formula One world champion and his son Marco, who is following his father’s footsteps on the IndyCar scene, has made it clear that it was the allure of his IndyCar foe in Penske that drew him to Supercars.

    “Honestly, when Roger got involved we started looking at it, out of the corner of my eye,” Andretti said to Supercars.com.

    “I’m always looking to go up against Roger anywhere we can go. It’s a great rivalry that we have, so that definitely helped my decision.

    “[After Penske joined DJR] I put some feelers out there, if there was any opportunities I’d want to do it. There was a couple of little opportunities, but they weren’t the right deals.

    “But then this one came through Zak Brown to us and it was perfect. It was exactly what we were wanting to do.”

    As with DJR Team Penske, there will be no overnight remedy to mend the trauma that the team is currently suffering from. Rather it must be a given that by the turn of the decade, that the once great racing team can be restored to the glory that it was associated with.