Holden has confirmed it will continue to race in Australasia’s premier motorsport category, Supercars, beyond the end of this year with a new three-year agreement to remain on the grid.
However, in a shock announcement, Holden also confirmed it will end its association with Walkinshaw Racing at the end of the 2016 season and will instead form a new partnership with Triple Eight Race Engineering to form a new entity, Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Holden also confirmed that the next-generation Commodore will debut on the Supercar grid in 2018 and will be developed by Triple Eight Race Engineering.
The announcement ends a 27-year relationship with Walkinshaw Racing dating back to 1990 when Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Holden partnered to form the now iconic Holden Racing Team.
“Motorsport has played a significant role in Holden’s heritage and we’re proud to be carrying on that tradition with the new Red Bull Holden Racing Team, while reshaping our brand and presence in the market and in motorsport,” said Holden chairman and managing director, Mark Bernhard.
“I’d also like to thank and pay homage to Walkinshaw Racing with whom we have shared a proud history over many years.”
Triple Eight boss Roland Dane told CarAdvice he was both honoured and aware of the responsibility attached to becoming the official, factory-backed Holden team in Supercars. While his Triple Eight team has enjoyed Holden factory support since 2010, this latest announcement confirms the squad, currently branded as Red Bull Racing Australia, will become the lone factory-supported Holden team on the Supercars grid.
“We’re very honoured to be tasked with developing the next-gen Commodore for 2018. That’s a big part of it,” Dane said.
“And we’re really excited by the fact that Holden will continue to back us, especially when there is only one factory-backed team. We’re very pleased that it’s us and we’re very aware of our responsibility to the Holden fan base to deliver what we can for them.”
While the Walkinshaw-run Holden Racing Team remains the most successful team in the Supercars era, with 178 race wins, six drivers’ titles and seven Bathurst 1000 victories, it is Triple Eight with 146 race wins, six drivers’ titles and six Bathurst 1000 victories in just 14 seasons since joining the Supercars grid in 2003 that has set the benchmark for the sport. Holden Racing Team’s last drivers’ title came in 2002, a year before Triple Eight joined the sport.
While news on which overseas-based model will replace the locally-built Commodore in 2018 remains scant, it is expected the new-generation Opel Insignia, due to be released globally in 2017, will morph into a Holden Commodore Down Under.
Dane however, refused to be drawn on any details about the 2018 Commodore or even if his Triple Eight team had started preliminary design on work on the racing variant due to hit our race tracks in 2018.
“We’re not going to discuss anything other than that the project is going to happen,” he bluntly told CarAdvice. “It’s up to Holden when they choose to share timelines and any other information around it.”
While the announcement signals the end of Holden’s motor racing relationship with Walkinshaw, Bernhard stressed the family-owned Holden Special Vehicles business was still part of the General’s future strategy.
“Our relationship with Walkinshaw remains strong and we are working closely on future road vehicle initiatives as part of our ongoing partnership with HSV,” he said.
HSV boss Ryan Walkinshaw was understandably disappointed with Holden’s decision but remained confident his company would continue to work with Holden into the future.
“After fielding Holden’s official factory team for 26 years we are naturally disappointed but respect Holden’s decision. We are rightly proud to have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Holden over the years, and have enjoyed many successes together,” said Walkinshaw.
“While our official motorsport partnership may have ended, our relationship with Holden remains strong and we continue to work closely on future road vehicle initiatives in line with our HSV business.”