Lewis Hamilton led home a Mercedes 1-2 at Sunday’s Grand Prix of Steiermark to complete a dominant weekend for Mercedes.
On the eve of what promises to be another captivating season for the Virgin Australia Supercars championship, the news broke like a stab to the heart – that General Motors will be retiring the Holden brand at the end of 2020.
In an instant, the reaction was that of heartbreak and sadness – that a marque synonymous with motorsport in Australia for six decades would no longer be present. The lion will roar no more.
Sifting through the anguish and emotion only reveals that this decision from GM in the United States was an inevitable one. At the base of it, the ‘win Sunday, sell Monday’ philosophy upon Supercars has been operating since 1993 – has not been delivering the results in the showroom for Holden, despite all the success on-track.
So where now for Supercars, who’ve established this core rivalry between Holden and Ford which has divided fans for generations? The question is a huge one, as it considers a global perspective of the automotive industry and motorsport – rather than just focussing on our own shores.
Supercars has been bespoke for its product compared to other touring car categories worldwide. Though now, some consider certain aspects of it to be a dinosaur.
A loud, thunderous V8 engine, minimal aerodynamics in a sedan, bumper-to-bumper racing and some of the toughest drivers on the planet. On paper, a simple formula though one that has delivered on-track success.
What needs to be injected into that formula is sustainability and viability, which the category has begun asking questions about, particularly the latter – with the loss of a core team in Garry Rogers Motorsport at the end of 2019. The introduction of standardised components (in 2020 there will be a control shock-absorber used up and down pit-lane) is a small step in addressing viability.
This is where the next set of regulations for Supercars will be crucial to securing the long-term direction of the sport. Gen3 is set to debut in 2022 and with very little known publicly about the framework, there will continue to be speculation and negativity about what the future holds.
The introduction of the Ford Mustang in 2019 and commitment by Ford from Detroit was not the smoothest given all the homologation changes throughout that season to address the aero advantage the car had. This was due to an outdated chassis, for a four-door sedan being provided as the shell for a two-door coupe. Gen3 should be built for the coupe.
As a result, that would provide GM – who still wish to continue operating in Australia through their Special Vehicles division – the platform to introduce their Camaro as a potential replacement to the incumbent Holden Commodore. Could other manufacturers see that and follow suit?
Boss of the former Holden Racing Team and current Walkinshaw Andretti United organisation Ryan Walkinshaw was speaking to Speedcafe.com and gave an optimistic outlook for manufacturer interest in Supercars.
“I know there’s a lot of manufacturers that do want to come into this sport, given the right scenario, given the right investment opportunity, given the right access to the teams they’d want to have represent them.”
“Some small changes to the chassis and how we look at what our product is would allow entry to these manufacturers. I think this is where the focus should be,” added Walkinshaw.
The likely outcome will be that Supercars will survive and adapt to the current automotive climate – while keeping the key parts of its bespoke nature. A definitive path needs to be laid out and followed, regardless of any reluctance.
In a similar vein to Formula One making a definitive commitment to its radical 2021 regulations and increased focus on creating an environmentally sustainable product.
Holden will forever be remembered for its place as a pillar of motorsport in Australia, though in the words of current factory Holden Racing Team boss Roland Dane, ‘times changes and we have to change with them.’
So, watch this space, celebrate what Holden has achieved and let’s enjoy what the 2020 season has in store for the Supercars championship – with a keen eye on what’s beyond.